Borer focuses on oral healthcare

July 2, 2018

In 2017 the Connecticut Department of Public Health conducted a statewide oral health survey of kindergarten and 3rd grade. More than 4,400 received dental screening in 25 of our school districts. The results determined that oral health in our children has declined since the last study in 2012 and an alarmingly 15% of students were identified with needing urgent care. In Hispanic and Asian children that percentage is even higher at 19%.

I worked with my colleagues to develop the new legislation signed by the governor that sets the stage for encouraging children’s oral health screenings to be completed in the same years that medical screenings are done, at first enrollment in a school and Grades 6 or 7 and 9 or10.

The health and well-being of the children of our state are a priority for all of us and we know that oral health is the gateway to our overall health. Unless oral health issues are identified and addressed timely and properly it could lead to significant health issues for our children. It could also be the cause of absences from school. This new legislation will not only improve access to care but it will also begin to set positive behavioral patterns around screenings at an early age.

Thirteen states have recently passed legislation to require dental screenings as a condition of school entry including our neighboring states New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. While other states have the screenings as a requirement for school entry, CT will allow parents to opt out.

I am pleased with the Public Health Committee’s successes around passing this measure, and grateful in particular to our House Chair, Rep. Jonathan Steinberg of Westport for his partnership on this legislation. Every public hearing and committee meeting we held were a learning opportunity for me on a range of issues critically important to our constituents.

Additional oral health legislative changes which will go into effect on October 1, 2018 include:

  • Adding "senior centers", "managed residential community" and "licensed child care centers" as venues where Connecticut's rapidly aging population can have access to dental care and allow parents to access oral health assessments as well as other preventive dental care when children are at the child care center.
  • Allowing dental assistants to apply fluoride varnish under the direct supervision of the dentist to prevent dental decay.
  • Granting the Department of Public Health to issue a state license without examination to a practicing dentist in another state or territory who holds a license in good standing and has continually practiced for a least the last five years. This will help streamline the process to increase the number of dentists in CT.

“The passage of these legislative bills represents an effort to impact oral health as part of overall health by addressing health disparities and barrier to achieve health equity,” stated Mary Moran Boudreau of the Connecticut Oral Health Initiative. She further went on to say, “With early intervention such as the oral health assessments for school children, any oral disease can be diagnosed and treated. Untreated tooth decay can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning.”

“The Association of School Nurses of Connecticut is proud to have worked with Rep. Borer to achieve passage of this legislation. Access to dental care is a primary challenge for some families. Children throughout Connecticut will benefit,” said Government Relations Chair for the Association, Donna Kosiorowski, MS, RN, NCSN.