Student Well-Being

The Tooth Fairy—Or Big Brother?

By Laura Greifner — May 22, 2007 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Add this to Iowa’s back-to-school checklist for incoming 1st graders and high school freshmen: mandatory dental screenings.

Eager to raise public awareness about oral health, state officials are pleased with a new law that goes into effect July 1, 2008, requiring such screenings, which are less extensive than full dental exams.

“We want to alert and sensitize parents to the fact that oral health is important,” said Bob D. Russell, the dental director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, from which the bill originated.

The bill mandates that the health department come up with a formal definition of a screening, which Dr. Russell described as “a visual observation for any obvious signs of decay” or any other serious problems. The screening can be performed by a dentist, dental hygienist, physician, or nurse, according to the text of the bill, which does not mandate any treatment.

Dr. Russell, a dentist, likened dental screenings to physicals for student-athletes. He said that awareness of the dangers of poor oral health was raised earlier this year when a 12-year-old Maryland boy died after a bacterial infection in a tooth spread to his brain.

But some opponents worry about the financial strain it will cause for families unable to pay for a screening. The legislature put no money behind the bill. Mr. Russell said a screening typically would cost far less than a dental exam—probably under $25.

Sen. James Hahn, a Republican, said that while he is a strong believer in the importance of dental hygiene, he voted against the bill because of the lack of funding.

“I have some concerns about the cost, and about people who don’t have coverage,” he said.

Several other states, including California and Illinois, have similar dental-screening mandates for students.

Dr. Russell said that the health department is working on programs to help those who cannot afford the screenings, but stressed that a screening does not require any treatment.

But an editorial in The Des Moines Register criticized the lack of funding for follow-up care.

“Iowa lawmakers who saw fit to require Iowa parents to get a kid’s mouth looked at also should raise [Medicaid] reimbursement rates to pay dentists enough to cover the cost of treating those children,” read the newspaper’s May 11 editorial.

See Also

See other stories on education issues in Iowa. See data on Iowa’s public school system.

For background, previous stories, and Web links, read Student Health.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the May 23, 2007 edition of Education Week

Events

English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Opinion Culturally Responsive Social-Emotional Learning: How to Get There
Bringing culturally responsive SEL into class can't be done as an add-on. It needs to be integrated into daily routines and academic work.
14 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Student Well-Being Fewer Teens Appear to Be Vaping. How Schools Can Keep the Momentum
A handful of studies suggest that adolescent e-cigarette use dropped substantially during the pandemic.
7 min read
Image of E-cigarettes for vaping. Popular vape devices
Nijat Nasibli/iStock
Student Well-Being Quiz How Much Do You Know About the Needs of the Whole Child?
Answer 7 questions to see how much you know about the needs of the whole child.
Student Well-Being Flu Vaccinations Among Children Are Down. That Could Spell Trouble for Schools
The convergence of flu and COVID-19 infections could exacerbate student absences and staff shortages.
2 min read
An employee with the Hidalgo County Health Department holds out a roll of flu vaccine stickers that are used to verify who has been temperature screened Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2020, at the COVID-19 vaccination clinic on the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show grounds in Mercedes, TX.
An employee with the Hidalgo County Health Department holds out a roll of flu vaccine stickers that are used to verify who has been temperature screened at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Mercedes, Texas
Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald/AP