USC helps parents meet new requirements for dental health
Parents preparing their children for the first day of school need to add another box to their checklist of pencils, crayons and glue. A new state law, which took effect last year, now makes a dental exam part of the mandatory health requirements for children entering elementary school in kindergarten or the first grade.
Many Los Angeles area families without a dental provider need look no further than their local university for help. The University of Southern California (USC) School of Dentistry is offering free exams for incoming kindergartners and first graders at their second Family Fun Dental Fair, held Saturday, Sept. 20, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the USC campus, 925 W. 34th Street in Los Angeles.
Supporters contend that this legislation is an important step in targeting a major children’s health crisis plaguing California. A study released last year by the Dental Health Foundation found that dental disease outpaces asthma, childhood diabetes and even obesity as the state’s primary health problem affecting children. According to the report, one third of the state’s third-graders have a history of tooth decay, with some 750,000 children sitting in classrooms across the state with untreated dental disease. Four percent of the state’s elementary school children, some 138,000, are suffering from tooth pain or have an untreated infection.
School age children, ages five to 17, miss nearly 2 million school days nationwide every year due to dental health problems, says Roseann Mulligan, associate dean for USC School of Dentistry’s community health programs.
“Dental disease is a serious health issue in this state and there is growing awareness that it impedes a child’s ability to develop and learn,” she says. “As parents prepare for their child’s first day of school and buy school clothes and school supplies, another get ready item is an oral health assessment. With this event, we wanted to make it easier for our community families to cross that off their list.”
The goal of the new law is to ultimately help California children establish a dental home and an ongoing relationship with a local dental provider that can lead to a lifetime of good oral health.
“We want our community partners to realize that we at USC are a resource for the community and can become a dental home for the community children,” Mulligan says.
In addition to free oral health screenings for children and their families, participating children will receive a free book, and a visit with the tooth fairy.
For more information, please contact the USC School of Dentistry at (213) 740-1637.