Free Dental Screenings

5/20/2008 Fresno, CA It's the visit most kids dread, but these kindergartners at Vinland elementary in Fresno actually seemed happy to see the dentist.

The kids received free dental screenings as part of a state-wide public education campaign on the importance of good oral hygiene, and as a reminder of the new California law requiring dental checkups in a child's first school year. The deadline this year is may 31st.

Rodger Butler from the State Department of Managed Health Care says "This law raises awareness and lets parents know that it's important to use the dental plan you do have, or if you don't have insurance to look around for programs you may not have thought of."

Plans like "new dental choice", the discount dental plan licensed by the state that provided today's screenings. Its CEO, Dr. Michael Grossman says, "I am amazed at the amount of dental decay and problems that we find in children. I think there are 25-percent of children in California that have never been to the dentist by the time they are eleven.."

Dr. Grossman adds that the problem is even worse in Fresno County, where 40 percent of children have untreated dental disease.

Vinland Elementary Principal Mary Dougherty, says "I think that a lot of our children have not been to the dentist. That is safe to say. Many of my parents do not have transportation, so they walk."

The Department of Managed Health Care understands the hardship, but warns that skipping dental visits can lead to much more than just cavities.

Butler says, "Poor dental health leads to poor dental hygiene which leads to tooth decay which can lead to children not paying attention, missing school and it ultimately interferes with the learning process."

Armed with a goody bag of floss and toothbrushes, these kids look ready for homework.

"What are you going to do with these brushes?"

"Brush our teeth! Yeah!"

Schools have sent out a form to parents for their child's dentist to fill out, but those who can't afford the dental visit, are exempt. One of the goals of this law is to identify problems with receiving dental care and use the information to seek more funding.

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