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


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.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

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 The Influential Allies These Schools Are Enlisting to Boost Attendance
A newly formed group of school districts will rely on the help of their communities to craft absence-fighting strategies.
4 min read
Back of a teen girl walking home from school while wearing a backpack with one strap hanging off her shoulder.
Student Well-Being Teens Are Looking for Mental Health Support Online. What That Means for Schools
Young people are turning to websites, social media, and apps for mental health support.
4 min read
Hand holding a mobile phone with an app asking "What is Your Mood Today? Measure Your Mental State" with a blue "Let's Explore" button
Student Well-Being Q&A How to Address Parents' Concerns That SEL Goes Against Their Values
A Texas instructional coach shares insights she has learned from talking with hesitant parents.
3 min read
Illustration concept of emotional intelligence, showing a woman balancing emotion control using her hand to balance smile and sad face icons.
Student Well-Being Pause Before You Post: A Social Media Guide for Educators in Tense Political Times
5 tips for educators and their students to avoid making harmful or false statements online that they later regret.
6 min read
Tight crop of a man's hands using a mobile phone with the popup box that reads "Delete post, Are you sure you want to delete this post? Cancel or Delete"
Gina Tomko/Education Week + Getty