State mandates dental exams for high schoolers

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Kids entering high school in Champaign next month will have a lot on their plate. They need to find where the lunch room is, where to sit in class, and more.

Now, thanks to new laws passed by Illinois, they need to worry about their teeth too.

Starting for the 2019-2020 school year, dental exams will be required for students entering the ninth grade. Previously, kids have had to have their teeth checked before kindergarten, second, and sixth grades. Dr. Alex Wright of the Family Dental Center says a student’s oral health can have an impact on their education.

“We have had high school age students come in needing emergency dental treatment and they’ve had to miss certain things in school,” says Wright. “They haven’t been able to study or sleep very well because of the pain they’ve been having. So that definitely can effect overall quality of life and kind of their school as well.”

The impact oral health has on student performance was one of the driving factors for the new guidelines. If students don’t get their exam done on time, the laws say schools can withhold report cards. But the Illinois Department of Public Health can grant waivers for those without access to the dentist. Alice Ekhoff of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District says their group tries to help families by hosting free exams.

“We see medicaid children and children who are on medicaid lookalike insurance,” says Ekhoff. “But for many of them they’re either between insurance or they aren’t currently insured. And that’s where that free dental exam really comes in handy.”

The dental exam deadline for students entering the ninth grade is May 15 of next year, giving families time to prepare for the change.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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