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Many primary and secondary schools across the United States require students to have a dental exam from a pediatric dentist or family dentist before they finish certain grade levels.
Most schools will not prevent a child from attending class if they don’t get the required exam, or if a dentist determines their oral health makes them unfit to attend school. However, other penalties may be placed on the child or parents in these situations. For example, if proof of the required dental exam isn’t provided, schools may withhold the child’s report card, which could make it hard for the student to move on to the next grade or matriculate.
The exams required by most schools are mainly focused on finding tooth decay-related problems, or “any other condition that interferes with a student’s ability to chew, speak, or focus on school activities”. This type of exam is already part of your child’s regular checkup at the dentist, so if your child already visits Dr. Camps regularly, you will probably not have to make a new appointment for the school required dental exam. School-required exams usually do not involve x-rays.
Children’s oral health can have a big impact on their early lives, their later health, and even on their academic success. A report on the implementation of the Illinois law that requires dental exams for school children stated:
An estimated 51 million school hours per year are lost because of dental-related illness. Poor oral health has been related to decreased school performance, poor social relationships, and less success later in life. Children experiencing pain are distracted and unable to concentrate on schoolwork. Children should enter school free from dental problems.
Some states also collect data (confidentially and anonymously) from the results of these exams. Using all this data from different schools and grades together gives them a good idea of how well the teeth of children in the community are being cared for.
The state of Illinois requires a dental exam for kindergarten, 2nd grade, and 6th grade students. Other states with similar requirements include New York, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Oregon. State-enforced requirements usually apply to all schools, including public, private, and parochial (religious) schools. Some local governments and even some school districts may require dental exams for students, even if it isn’t mandated by state law.
If you don’t know whether your child’s school requires a dental health screening, the best way to find out would be to contact the school directly and ask. Children who do not yet have a regular dentist that they go to can often get recommendations from their school of a local pediatric dentist or family dentist who can help. If your child’s school does require a dental screening, make sure you mention this at your child’s next dental exam, so the dentist knows how to fill out and provide you with the appropriate form certifying your child has been examined.