The Importance of Kindergarten Dental Screenings

Dental care starts young, so it’s never too early to consider oral health exams for your child. Ideally, kids should begin seeing a dentist regularly by the age of one, and proper brushing and flossing habits should start to be enforced at age three.

By the time children reach the age of five or six, baby teeth will start to fall out and care for permanent teeth will begin. As your child prepares to start school, it’s important to ensure their teeth are in the best possible condition so they can thrive in this next chapter of life. We know pediatric dental care — and kindergarten dental screenings — can come with a lot of questions, so we’re here to help answer them.

What is a Kindergarten Dental Screening?

The goal of a kindergarten dental screening is to check a child’s mouth for tooth decay and gauge whether or not oral health issues could occur down the line. These screenings will typically look like a routine oral exam, in which a dentist will examine each individual tooth for signs of decay. By assessing a child’s dental hygiene status at this stage of life, parents are given the opportunity to intervene early on and provide kids with the dental care they need.

Why Should My Child Get a Dental Screening Before Kindergarten?

Kindergarten dental screenings are important for many reasons, with an early emphasis on the importance of dental care being just one. For years, dental disease has been a major problem for young children, and is a primary source of missed school days. In 2015, Bridge Michigan reported a study by the Michigan Department of Community Health, which found that one in four Michigan third-graders have untreated dental disease.

Kindergarten dental screenings would seek to mitigate this problem, and, by limiting oral pain, can help children concentrate better and perform well in class. These oral exams can also serve communities as a whole by spreading awareness on the importance of oral health and why it should be addressed in young children. 

Are Dental Screenings Required for Kindergarten?

Currently, dental screenings are not required for children enrolling in kindergarten in the state of Michigan. Many other states have mandated screenings over time, such as California, which requires the Kindergarten Oral Health Assessment (KOHA) for all children entering public school. Efforts like House Bill 4223, which suggested parents should be required to provide children with a basic dental screening before enrolling them in school, have been introduced but not enacted in Michigan.

However, as of 2020, Governor Gretchen Whitmer enacted section 333.9316 of the Michigan Legislature, which introduced a dental oral assessment program for families who wish to conduct a screening for their child prior to kindergarten but may not have the resources to do so. This is a significant step toward prioritizing dental care for children, and providing parents with resources to take action with their child’s oral health early on.

How Else Can I Prepare My Child’s Teeth for School?

 Besides completing an oral health exam before kindergarten, the best way to prepare your child’s mouth for school is through regular dental checkups and at-home care. Be sure to schedule cleanings for your child every six months, and enforce proper brushing and flossing techniques between appointments. For additional information on pediatric dental care, don’t hesitate to reach out to the MCDC team.