CDA-sponsored bill to improve quality of oral health data becomes law

CDA in 2005 sponsored Assembly Bill 1433, known as the Kindergarten Oral Health Assessment, to improve school readiness. The legislation required a dental checkup for children upon school entry. CDA members were instrumental in disseminating the message to policymakers and parents that children who suffer from dental disease cannot perform well in school and that good oral health is necessary for good school performance.

In the 10-plus years since the law’s enactment, the number of AB 1433-participating schools has decreased as school funding formulas have changed and funding levels have been uncertain. This year, in response to goals identified in the draft California State Oral Health Plan, CDA co-sponsored Senate Bill 379, co-authored by Toni Atkins (D-San Diego). The bill makes statutory updates that will facilitate the efficient collection of the data.

In addition to adding new data points reported by schools, SB 379 enables schools to facilitate screenings by streamlining the consent process for on-site oral health assessments. Treatment of students will still require prior informed consent.

California State Dental Director Jay Kumar, DDS, MPH, expressed appreciation to CDA and the other oral health stakeholders who successfully advocated for the bill, stating: “Essential to an effective oral health program is monitoring the health of the population. The System for California Oral Health Reporting is an existing statewide data collection system that serves as an important element in the overall surveillance of tooth decay in children. Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 379, which will allow this important tool to function even better, helping CDPH programs to improve. The California Department of Public Health encourages dentists to participate in the kindergarten assessment program. It is never too late to begin to educate parents and never too early to educate children about the importance of good dental health. If a child has not yet established a dental home, the kindergarten assessment requirement may be the opportunity to do just that.”

See the August 2017 issue of the CDA Journal for an in-depth analysis of AB 1433 data in the article “Case Study: School-Based Oral Health Screening in San Francisco as an Essential Public Health Service.”

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Five years after CDA developed a proposal to reduce barriers to dental care in California, several of the proposal’s objectives have come to pass. Most notably was the 2015 installation of Jayanth Kumar, DDS, MPH, as state dental director. And now, thanks in part to the passage of Proposition 56, the state oral health plan that CDA and other stakeholders helped develop over the past year will receive a significant financial boost of $30 million annually.

Senate Bill 379 (Atkins, San Diego), co-sponsored by CDA, would amend the law to improve both the quantity and quality of the oral health data collected. The statutory updates in the bill will also facilitate the efficient collection of the data by ensuring it is reported to one entity — the Office of Oral Health within the Department of Public Health.