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Kids need teeth checked for school

August 7, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
A fairly new California law might catch some parents by surprise. All kindergartners and first graders who attend a public school need to get a dental exam.Visiting the dentist is a new experience for 3-year-old Emma Miles. Her mom only thought about bringing her after she heard about a new state requirement.

"I was really surprised to learn that she should be at the dentist this early," said mom, Jennifer Miles.

Children who enroll in public school for the first time, in either kindergarten or the 1st grade are required to get an oral exam and bring in a certain form.

Pediatric dentist Natalie Mansour says legislators passed the law because tooth decay has reached epidemic proportions.

"It is the most chronic childhood disease. It is actually more of a disease than obesity and asthma. I believe that two-thirds of children by the time they are in the 3rd grade suffers from some type of dental condition," said Dr. Mansour.

One of the reasons many parents wave the dental form is because they cannot afford dental care. However, experts say that there are ways for families who are uninsured and under served to get some help.

"The assessment form kind of serves as a survey for the state of California to maybe help facilitate children into a dental program or maybe a governmental based program," said Dr. Mansour.

Many parents wait until all of the baby teeth fall out before they see a dentist. Dr. Mansour says that decayed baby teeth can hurt the permanent ones before they develop.

"There isn't even a tooth that is formed yet, so when they do get that tooth taken out I actually warn the parent that sometimes that adult tooth may not form properly, as a result of a loss of a baby tooth early," said Dr. Mansour.

She might still be a little scared of the dentist, but Emma's mom says it is great to get started early,

"She wasn't as happy when it came down to it, but I am glad that she got her teeth checked. And it turns out everything is good," said Miles.

While the law requires public school kids get to the dentist by kindergarten, Dr. Mansour recommends children get their first exam by age of 1.

The California Dental Association has a list of dentists who volunteer to perform these oral exams for free.

 

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