The Associated Press
West Virginia’s public schools will have a new program focusing on oral health when classes begin later this month.
Prevention is a key aspect of the new program, said Dr. Jason Roush, state dental director. “It’s a whole lot easier to prevent than it is to get access toward the treatment. ... Once you get a cavity, it’s expensive,” Roush told The Exponent Telegram.
Teachers across West Virginia will use the program, which will focus on each student group’s needs, from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
“It’s really age specific ... it keeps building each year, so when it gets into the high school years it talks about piercings and mouth guards,” Roush said.
Registered public health dental hygienists employed through Marshall University will serve as regional oral health coordinators. Their duties include providing oral health education training, promoting good oral hygiene and helping to expand school-based dental sealant and fluoride projects. They also will work with local water systems on fluoridation.
Rebecca King, a coordinator with the state’s Office of Healthy Schools, said that program’s goal is to help children have better oral health.
“The oral health education component should bring student and parent awareness to having their child or children seen by a dentist at least twice a year,” King said.
She said that she hopes the regional specialists will find resources for families who do not have dental insurance and help those who need assistance with upfront dental costs.
Richard Stevens, executive director of the West Virginia Dental Association, said that his group supports the program. But he does not think that it goes far enough.
He said that the Legislature should require all students to be examined by a dentist before they enter kindergarten or first grade.
“It’s unfortunate that we’re not calling for that examination of these youngsters,” he said.
Oral health is important to a student’s overall health, said Donna Moore, coordinator of health services for the Harrison County school board.
“Your teeth affect your whole body, and if they’re kept healthy and in good shape, then you’re going to have a healthier student,” Moore said. “And a healthier student is going to be a better student.”