CDA sponsors bill to improve quality of oral health data

Legislation sponsored by CDA would improve the quality of oral health data collected at schools.

As part of the Kindergarten Oral Health Assessment (AB 1433), beginning in 2007 all public school students enrolled in kindergarten, or first grade if they did not attend kindergarten, were required to present proof of having received an oral health assessment by May 31 of the school year. Although fewer schools engage in AB 1433 activities since implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula (the new funding model that gives schools greater flexibility in how funds are spent), many California schools continue to participate. As part of this, schools must collect certain data, such as the number of assessments and number of students with untreated tooth decay, and report it to the local county office of education.

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.

"The Kindergarten Oral Health Assessment is an important component of vital oral health data collection needed to help measure the success of early prevention and intervention programs and guide the future direction of the State Oral Health Plan," stated CDA in a letter to Toni Atkins announcing the association's decision to co-sponsor the legislation. With this bill, schools will additionally be reporting to the state the rate of dental decay in their students. State Dental Director Jayanth Kumar, DDS, told CDA that access to good, current data is "critical for describing and monitoring oral health status, guiding actions to address needs and setting priorities for the use of resources and evaluating the outcome of implemented actions."

In addition to adding new data points reported by schools, SB 379 would better enable schools to facilitate screenings by permitting passive consent for on-site oral health assessments. Any treatment of students would still require prior informed consent.

"Over the past few years, California has taken significant steps to improve the oral health of children and adults in our states, and CDA's successful advocacy work, including for a state dental director and funding for state oral health programs, has been essential to these efforts," said CDA Government Affairs Council Chair John Blake, DDS. "While we still have a long way to go in reducing disparities, we are confident that the success of SB 379 will be another important step toward improving the oral health of California's children."

SB 379 passed out of its first committee hearing with unanimous support and is scheduled to be heard late April in the Senate Health Committee.

Learn more about recent data collection efforts in the article "New life for Kindergarten oral health requirement" in the March issue of the CDA Update.

CDA will update members about the status of this legislation on cda.org and in the CDA Update.

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Students’ oral health is receiving a big push in Los Angeles schools. The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education in January unanimously approved a resolution that seeks to enforce AB 1433, known as the Kindergarten Oral Health Requirement, by recognizing February as Children’s Dental Health Month, among other actions.

First-time resources available to participating Denti-Cal providers resulted in increased access to care for the nearly 6 million California children enrolled in the Medicaid dental program in the first half of 2016. In 2016, the Department of Health Care Services rolled out the 1115 waiver, known as Medi-Cal 2020, which allocated $740 million to the Dental Transformation Initiative.