Ky. dental screening law helps school kids

A Kentucky law that took effect this year requiring dental screening of all children during their first year of school is already having a positive effect, according to a story by the Courier-Journal.

Passed in 2008, the law requires a dental examination for admittance to a public school, public preschool, or Head Start program beginning with the 2010-2011 school year. Children must present proof that they have had a dental screening or exam by January 1 of the first year they enter school as 5- or 6-year-olds, the paper reported.

An estimated 43% of Kentucky children between the ages of 2 and 4 have untreated tooth decay, Julie Watts McKee, D.M.D., Kentucky's state dental director, told the Courier-Journal. And Ann Greenwell, D.M.D., of the University of Louisville (UofL) School of Dentistry said their facility has seen cases of 12-month-old children with abscessed teeth.

To help families comply with the law, Uof L's dental school is offering free dental screenings for 5- and 6-year-olds from disadvantaged families.

Dental pain in youngsters can affect their eating habits, nutrition, and weight, according to Charlotte Haney, D.M.D., director of pediatric dentistry at the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry. Underweight children often gain weight after their teeth are fixed, she added. In addition, kids with caries have difficulty paying attention, may behave like children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and may experience sleeplessness, Dr. Greenwell said.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children have their first dental visit by age 1.

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