CHARLESTON, W.Va.—McDowell County, W.Va., pre-K and kindergarten students who have not had a dental examination prior to the start of the 2015-16 school year will have a virtual dental hygiene examination at school and follow-up care, provided by a mobile dental van or at a regional dental provider, under a new initiative coordinated by Reconnecting McDowell and several of its partners.
The pilot program would enroll pre-K and kindergarten students first, then add students in grades 2,7 and 12, respectively, in the following three school years.
Reconnecting McDowell is a public-private partnership, spearheaded by the American Federation of Teachers, to ensure that McDowell County children and their families have access to high-quality education, healthcare, social services and improved economic development opportunities.
The state board of education has approved a policy to ensure that children have access to preventive dental services. The state’s database will capture the names of students who say they have not had an oral examination by the start of the school year. Those students would have to participate in the tele-dentistry program, in which they would be examined and have virtual dental X-rays taken by an off-site dental hygienist using the school’s computer system. For follow-up care, children would either receive care in a mobile dental van that would come to the schools or via bus transportation that would be provided by regional dental providers.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who announced the dental services at a Reconnecting McDowell partners’ meeting today, said that dental-related illnesses are a leading cause of school absences. Good oral health means more time spent in classrooms, she said.
Jason Roush of the state’s Oral Health Program said that nationally an estimated 51 million school hours each year are lost due to dental issues.