Dental Exam Requirement Drawing Mixed Response
Some children's health advocates say a new state law requiring all students to receive a dental exam before entering first grade is having difficulty succeeding because of inadequate funding and a shortage of dentists, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reports.
Laura Marcus, executive director of Dientes Community Dental Care in Santa Cruz, said the problem with the law "is that it's a mandate with no money assigned to it."
The law requires schools to verify that all children have had a dental exam before the first grade but does not provide funding for dental care or penalize schools that fall short of the requirements.
Assembly member John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), a co-author of the measure, said the mandate is a "first step" toward expanding dental coverage to uninsured children. He added, "As we make progress on extending coverage, there is also work to be done to increase access to dental care providers."
Marcus said there is a shortage of dentists and hygienists for uninsured children. She added, "Access is still limited to consumers who are well-educated and informed."
Gayle Mathe -- spokesperson for the California Dental Association, which lobbied for the bill -- said data collected in the first few years of the program could help make the case for expanding the program (King, Santa Cruz Sentinel, 6/18).