Your Child’s School May Require a Dental Exam

School required dental exam for kidsMany primary & secondary schools across the United States (& in some other countries) require students to have a dental exam from a pediatric dentist or family dentist before they finish certain grade levels.

Most schools will not prevent a child from attending class if they don’t get the required exam, or if a dentist determines their oral health makes them unfit to attend school. However, other penalties may be placed on the child or parents in these situations. For example, if proof of the required dental exam isn’t provided, schools may withhold the child’s report card, which could make it hard for the student to move on the the next grade or matriculate.

The exams required by most schools are mainly focused on finding tooth decay-related problems, or “any other condition that interferes with a student’s ability to chew, speak or focus on school activities.”[source] This type of exam is already part of your child’s regular checkup at the dentist, so if your child already visits the dentist regularly, you will probably not have to make a new appointment for the school required dental exam. School-required exams usually do not involve x-rays (radiographs).

Children’s oral health can have a big impact on their early lives, their later health, & even on their academic success. A report on the implementation of the Illinois law that requires dental exams for schoolchildren stated:

An estimated 51 million school hours per year are lost because of dental-related illness. Poor oral health has been related to decreased school performance, poor social relationships, and less success later in life. Children experiencing pain are distracted and unable to concentrate on schoolwork. Children should enter school free from dental problems. [source]

Some states also collect data (confidentially & anonymously) from the results of these exams. Putting all this data from different schools & grades together gives them a good idea of how well the teeth of children in the community are being cared for.

The state of Illinois requires a dental exam for Kindergarten, 2nd Grade & 6th Grade students. Other states with similar requirements include New York, Kentucky, West Virginia, & Oregon. State-enforced requirements usually apply to all schools, including public, private & parochial (religious) schools. Some local governments (such as county or city) & even some school districts may require dental exams for students even if it isn’t mandated by state law.

If you don’t know whether your child’s school requires a dental health screening, the best way to find out would be to contact the school directly & ask. Children who do not yet have a regular dentist that they go to can often get recommendations from their school of a local pediatric dentist or family dentist who can help.

If your child’s school does require a dental screening, make sure you mention this at your child’s next dental exam so the dentist knows to fill out & provide you with the appropriate form certifying your child has been examined.

 

Toothbrushes Used to Be Made From Plants & Animals

a history of the toothbrushThe modern toothbrush has only been around for about 90 years, but it is the latest in a long evolution of tools to fight tooth decay, stretching back thousands of years and involving a whole range of flora and fauna!

Pre-History – Chewing on Sticks

Long before our ancestors used toothbrushes to ward off tooth decay, people chewed on sticks or twigs to clean their teeth. The earliest chew sticks found date back to 3500 B.C. in Mesopotamia and a tomb from 3000 B.C. in Egypt. Archeological finds also indicate that people used bird feather quills and porcupine spines to pick and clean their teeth.

Chew sticks are still around in the Middle East and northern Africa in the form of miswaks (also called siwaak or sewak). A miswak is made from twigs from the Salvadora persica tree (or arak in Arabic), which is easily frayed to form a brush-like tip at one end. In addition to being an alternative to the toothbrush for cleaning teeth, these sticks are part of pious ritual for many Muslims.

Bone & Bristle Toothbrushes

The next evolution in anti-tooth decay tools came from China, where the first actual toothbrushes were invented. During the Tong Dynasty around the years 600-900, the first bristled toothbrushes appeared. They typically had handles made from bone or bamboo and had bristles made from the stiff hair of northern hogs.

This Chinese invention of bristled toothbrushes eventually made it to Europe in the 1600s. Europeans changed the design by replacing hog hairs with horse hair, which were softer and therefore preferable.

The first mass produced toothbrush was designed by William Addis of England in 1780. (It was around this same time that being a dentist became a formally recognized medical profession, which some scholars correlate with the rise in sugar in European diets due to colonial trade.) Addis actually created the first prototype from a piece of bone when he was briefly in prison! After gaining his freedom, he started mass producing the toothbrush, eventually passing the business on to his son. Their Wisdom Toothbrush company was family owned until the 1990s and still produces modern toothbrushes in Europe.

20th Century Innovation

The next big innovation in toothbrushes came with the invention of nylon by the Du Pont chemical company in the 1930s. From then on, most toothbrushes were made with softer nylon bristles. Not only were they more pleasant to use and easier on the teeth, they were less likely to harbor bacteria like old-fashioned bristles made from animal hair.

The next big invention in toothbrush technology came with addition of electricity. The first electric toothbrush was invented in 1954 and became available in the United States in 1960. Like modern electric toothbrushes, the earliest ones involved a motor that vibrated the brush, supposedly enhancing the action of the bristles.

The Future

Who knows what the future of toothbrushing holds (maybe toothbrushing robots!). What every dentist (and patient) knows is that if you stick to using a soft bristled toothbrush (replaced every 3 months) to brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes, there are healthier smiles in your future!

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