Everyone remembers anxiously standing in line alongside your fellow kindergarten classmates to have your eyes and ears checked so you could get back to arts and crafts. OK, maybe that’s just me. But what you definitely don’t remember is a dental screening being part of that process. State Representative Scott VanSingel wants to change that with House Bill 5241.
HB 5241 is a bipartisan bill that would add dental assessments to the required health screenings for young children entering school for the first time. The main purpose of this bill is to not only improve oral health across Michigan, but to better prepare young students for academic success by identifying dental health issues that can affect learning and cause kids to miss school. Though many kids in Michigan have access to routine dental care, a large number of children—particularly those in poverty—enter school without that privilege and have oral health issues that greatly hinder their ability to learn.
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“Oral health and a child’s success in school are connected,” Rep. VanSingel says. “Children nationwide miss 51 million hours of school per year due to oral health issues—many of which are preventable. HB 5241 can improve the ability of children to learn and succeed in school.”
A few more findings that led to HB 5241 include:
- In some areas of Michigan, as few as 25 percent of children have seen a dentist in the past year.
- About 37 percent of children ages 6 to 9 have cavities, but the number almost doubles, to 69 percent, for children living in poverty.
- Tooth decay is the No. 1 most common chronic childhood disease in the U.S. (five times more common than asthma).
- Nearly half of all children entering kindergarten have had a least one cavity, and 50 percent of first-graders have dental decay.
- Children with dental pain are more likely to sleep poorly and miss school, and are less likely to complete required homework.
- Children who have experienced recent oral health pain are four times more likely to have low grade-point-averages than counterparts who have not.
HB 5241 would take aim at seriously addressing these issues by providing dental screenings to kindergarten students in Michigan each year who do not have dental insurance.
On top of being sponsored by 25 Republican and Democrat lawmakers, HB 5241 has garnered comprehensive support from many of the most trusted professionals and leaders in public health, dental care, and public education.
If you want to help more Michigan children get access to the dental care they need, contact your legislator and ask them to support HB 5241.
By Joel Dayton, Intern