With the new school year just around the corner, Smile, California launched its Back-Tooth-School activation to encourage parents and caregivers to send their children back to school healthy and ready to learn.
A dental check-up should be on every family's back to school checklist because a child's oral health affects their overall health. Healthy teeth not only help children eat, speak, and sleep better, but they also help them to perform better in school. Studies show children who have poor oral health often miss more school and receive lower grades than children who do not.1
Despite the benefits of maintaining healthy teeth, cavities - which are largely preventable - remain the most common chronic childhood disease. In California, more than 60 percent of students have experienced tooth decay by the third grade.2 The COVID-19 pandemic may have also disrupted healthy oral health care routines such as regular dental visits.
Smile, California, the Medi-Cal Dental Program's campaign to help Medi-Cal members make use of their dental benefit, is partnering with the California Department of Public Health's Office of Oral Health and its 59 Local Oral Health Programs to implement a Back-Tooth-School activation. Parents, caregivers, and community partners across the state will have resources to help them better understand the vital role a dental check-up plays in school readiness.
"Our outreach is geared to get children on a path toward better oral health which will lead to better overall health and academic success," said California's Dental Director, Jayanth Kumar, DDS, MPH.
Back-Tooth-School resources include informational flyers, videos, fact sheets, presentations, and social media images, all of which are available for download on the new Oral Health and School Readiness page at SmileCalifornia.org and SonrieCalifornia.org.
"Regular check-ups give dentists the opportunity to identify and treat tooth decay, apply protective treatments like sealants and fluoride varnish, and, most importantly, discover problems that could cause pain and potentially even harm a child's self-confidence and overall school performance," said Alani Jackson, Chief of the Medi-Cal Dental Services Division within DHCS. "Medi-Cal Dental is here to help. We provide free or low-cost check-ups every six months for members under the age of 21 and molar sealants up to the same age."
All children should begin seeing a dentist by the time their first tooth comes in or by their first birthday. In fact, California requires that a child have a comprehensive oral check-up by the time they are ready to enter public school. The "Kindergarten Oral Health Assessment" aims to help schools identify children suffering from untreated dental disease and helps parents and caregivers establish a dental home for their children. This will ensure early detection and preventive services for children to help mitigate pain, difficulty eating or speaking, and school absences.
Back-Tooth-School activation efforts are taking place throughout the state. To find a dental home or learn more about Smile, California or how you can participate in the Back-Tooth-School activation, visit SmileCalifornia.org.
About the California Department of Health Care Services
DHCS provides Californians with access to affordable, integrated, high-quality health care, including medical, dental, mental health, substance use treatment services and long-term care. Our vision is to preserve and improve the overall health and well-being of all Californians.
1 Griffin SO, Wei L, Gooch BF, Weno K, Espinoza L. Vital Signs: Dental Sealant Use and Untreated Tooth Decay Among U.S. School-Aged Children. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:1141-1145
2 California Office of Oral Health. 2018-2020 Third Grade Basic Screening Survey.
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