Dear Parent or Guardian:
Your child is attending public school for the first time and beginning a learning adventure that will last a lifetime.
Many things influence a child’s progress and success in school – and one of the most important is their health. Children must be healthy to learn and children with cavities are not healthy. Cavities are preventable, but they affect more children than any other chronic disease!
Baby teeth are very important – they are not just teeth that will fall out. Children need their teeth to eat properly, talk, smile and feel good about themselves. Children with cavities may have difficulty eating, stop smiling, and have problems paying attention and learning at school. Tooth decay is an infection that does not heal and can be painful if left without treatment. If cavities are not treated, children can become sick enough to require emergency room treatment and their adult teeth may be permanently damaged.
To make sure your child is ready for school, California law requires that your child have a dental checkup by May 31 of their first school year. Dental evaluations that have happened within the 12 months before your child enters school also meet this requirement. Your school will give you the required form to take with you when your child has their checkup, or one can be provided by your dentist.
If you cannot get a dental checkup for your child, you can apply for your child to be excused from the requirement by filling out the bottom portion of the form and marking the reasons your child could not get the checkup.
You can get more copies of the necessary forms at your child’s school, by clicking on the link provided on this website or by going directly to the California Department of Education’s website.
Here is important advice to help your child stay healthy:
The following questions and answers are meant to help you understand and meet this requirement:
If you have a dentist and your child has not received an exam within the last 12 months, call and schedule an appointment for an examination. If your child has seen the dentist within the last year, call your dentist’s office and ask how they are handling this requirement and what you must do for the dentist to complete the required form based on your child’s last regular exam. They may ask you to mail or fax the required form to them. They may tell you they have extra copies and will complete it and send it to you.
Remember that you have until May 31 to return the required form to your child’s school. Your dentist’s office may be handling this request for many patients and may need to space out scheduling appointments for these exams and completing the paperwork, so as not to overwhelm their office all at one time.
If you do not have a dentist, now is the perfect time to find one! The California Dental Association can assist you in finding a dentist.
If your child has Medi-Cal insurance, you can get help finding a dentist who takes this insurance by calling 800.322.6384 or visiting smilecalifornia.org.
Additionally, you can search for a community clinic in your area.
Many children who are not covered by a commercial insurance plan may be eligible for health benefits through the Medi-Cal program. Medi-Cal coverage automatically includes dental care.
To find out if your child can enroll in Medi-Cal, contact your local social service agency. Your school may also be able to refer you to a local resource to help you enroll your child in the Medi-Cal program.
Remember, this requirement is meant to help your child get the dental care they need to be healthy and ready for school. It is a great opportunity to learn about your child’s dental health. Because many dentists recognize the importance of this first step, they may be willing to do a basic evaluation, called a dental screening, for your child free of charge, as a public service. Your child’s school, your local health department or your local dental society may be able to help you find a dentist who has agreed to complete dental screenings free of charge. You may also be able to get a dental checkup for your child at low, or no-cost through a local community clinic.
Additionally, some schools may arrange for a dental screening program to come to their school. If your child has the opportunity to participate in one of these screening programs, be sure to sign the permission slip provided by the school and look for the findings/recommendation form that your child brings home. This will tell you if the dental professional who completed the screening found that your child has dental problems that need attention, or whether your child appears healthy at the time of the screening. It’s important to remember that a dental screening is just a quick visual look at a child’s mouth and cannot replace a thorough dental examination. All children who receive dental screenings are recommended to get a complete dental examination by a dentist, to make sure that they are healthy and they receive the care they need to stay healthy.
The law recognizes that under some circumstances, it may not be possible to get the required dental checkup for your child. In this case, you may have your child excused from the requirement by filling out the bottom portion of the form you received from the school.
To have your child excused, this portion of the form asks you to identify what prevented you from getting the dental checkup for your child. This information is very important, because it will help community leaders and policy makers decide what next steps must be taken to improve access to oral health care for children. Mark the box that most closely describes the reason you could not get a dental checkup for your child and return the form to your child’s school by May 31 of the school year.