Santa Rosa, CA – February 15, 2017 – A trip to the dentist is
as easy as A, B, C at three Santa
Rosa City Schools elementary schools serving as test sites for simplifying
state-mandated oral health screenings of kindergartners and for school-based
delivery of dental care.
From noon to 2 p.m. on
Friday, Feb. 17, volunteer dentists and dental hygienists will perform dental
screenings and apply fluoride varnish treatments on kindergartners at Brook
Hill Elementary, 1850 Vallejo Street, Santa Rosa. The project began last week
at Steele Lane Elementary on February 10 and continues with a last round of
screenings and treatments Feb. 24 at Luther Burbank Elementary.
Data from the screenings
are being collected to further document the extent of childhood dental disease
in the county, and to inform strategies and prioritize efforts to improve
dental health. Through the pilot project, parents and guardians of children in
need of further treatment will receive referrals to dental providers for that
“Dental health is so
important to a healthy start in life,” said Guadalupe Perez-Cook, principal at
Brook Hill Elementary. “Hopefully, we can make projects like this a model for
expanding access to dental care and improving local families’ knowledge about
In 2005, the California
Legislature passed legislation mandating that children enrolled in kindergarten
in a public school, or in first grade if not previously enrolled in
kindergarten, present proof of having received an oral health assessment from a
dentist or dental health professional. Intended to nip dental disease early on
and put young children and families on course to oral health, the mandate floundered
without the state funding to put into practice.
Now, says Barbie
Robinson, Department of Health Services Director, a $20,000 mini grant from
Kaiser Permanente is allowing those screenings to take place this spring at the
three Santa Rosa City Schools elementary schools—with a big assist from several
local volunteer dentists and dental health professionals.
“The pilot project will
provide a more concentrated look at dental health among children of recent
immigrants and from low-income backgrounds,” Robinson stated. In 2009 and 2014,
countywide surveys of kindergartners found that nearly half of Sonoma County kindergartens
were starting school with cavities —and that 20 percent of those cavities were
untreated. Latino children and children in low-income schools had two to three
times higher rates of dental disease.
Meanwhile, the project
provides a trial run on a small scale of what it might take to make
kindergarten oral health assessments readily available county-wide. And, last
but not least, fluoride varnish recipients are receiving some added and lasting
protection against new tooth decay.
“The varnish will be
brushed away the next time the child brushes, but the benefits will last
several months,” DHS Health, Policy and Planning Evaluation Division Director
Brian Vaughn said. “It is
recommended that fluoride varnish be reapplied every three to four months.”
Application of fluoride
varnish is part of a five-point strategy that has been developed by public
health officials and a broader community based Sonoma County Dental Health
Network for improving oral health.
In addition to more
extensive use of fluoride varnish, the strategy calls for expanding access to
dental care, improved dental-health literacy through education, wider use of
protective dental sealants and consideration of community water fluoridation.