In order to help parents meet a new state requirement for dental screenings for kindergartners, Bluegrass Community and Technical College is offering a free clinic.
Parents with children entering public school need to know that this year, the state is requiring for the first time that children ages 5 and 6 to have a dental screening by Jan. 1, 2011, when vision screenings are also due.
That doesn't mean you should wait, and BCTC wants to help.
While not as restrictive as an immunization certificate, which must be in-hand before a child can start school, the dental screening can be one of those things parents put off and then forget about.
Fortunately, dental hygienists and students in the dental hygiene program at BCTC are trying to help parents get the screenings done early — and for free.
On June 12, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., they will host Give Kids a Smile, a free dental screening program, at the BCTC Dental Hygiene Clinic in the Oswald Building, room 250, at 470 Cooper Drive.
The free screening will be open to everyone but is recommended for children ages 3 to 7. If available slots are not filled by children, adults will be screened.
Janella Spencer, coordinator of the BCTC dental hygiene program, said the clinic has 16 chairs available for the screenings, which will be conducted by licensed former students, dentists and current students serving as helpers.
"We're trying to get the people with no insurance or no dental home," Spencer said. "If a problem is discovered, we'll try to get them a referral to dentists who take K-CHIP or Medicaid."
That's not always that easy.
A limited number of dentists or health care providers are accepting those payment plans. Plus, last year, Gov. Steve Beshear, in announcing a new initiative to combat poor dental health, said only 28 of Kentucky's 120 counties have a pediatric dentist.
That fact is acutely bothersome. The state Department of Public Health's oral-health survey conducted in 2001, the latest data available, showed 42.7 percent of Kentucky's 2- to 4-year-olds had untreated dental decay, nearly double the national average. Nearly 40 percent had never visited a dentist. And the same survey revealed that some 4,500 3-year-olds had toothaches.
Michelle Marra, director of school health for Fayette County Schools, said officials have been trying to get the word out about the new requirement by hanging posters, contacting dentists and putting the information on their Web site.
The new regulations will help parents establish a relationship with a dentist and will help dentists detect problems early. Marra said the school system provided free dental varnishing — what used to be called sealant — last year to kindergartners, trying to nip problems in the bud.
Once the forms are returned, school nurses can follow up with reminders if problems are found. They can even help schedule an appointment with a provider, Marra said.
If parents fail to comply with the new regulation, Marra said, the children probably won't be prohibited from attending school, as they would be for improper immunization.
But school nurses will pester parents until something is done. School officials "want the children in school, but we certainly will step up and see how we can help you get them in to see a dentist," Marra said.
That is why the BCTC free clinic is such a gift for parents and children.
"They will get a free screening, and they can take a form back to their schools," Spencer said. "We're going to make it a really fun day, with face-painting and a toothbrush booth."
The children will be shown how to properly brush teeth, and parents will receive oral-health and nutrition information. Each child will receive a toothbrush and toothpaste and a fluoride-varnish treatment.
"We want to do about 200 kids, but we only have about 15 signed up," she said.
Parents should call so they can be assigned a specific time slot and avoid long waits.
If June 12 is not convenient, Spence said, the BCTC clinic charges $25 for the screenings of patients up to age 18 during the school year. The clinic is closed during the summer when students are not on campus.
For more information about the BCTC Give Kids a Smile event, or to schedule an appointment, call Melissa Kemp or Della White at (859) 246-6857.