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Oral Health Information for School Nurses & Teachers

An estimated 51 million school hours per year are lost because of dental problems. Oral health problems can also result in failure to thrive, impaired speech development, and reduced self-esteem. Students may have trouble concentrating and learning and be unlikely to score as well on tests as children who are not distracted by pain. more

School Nurses and teachers can promote oral health by educating students and parents about good health habits and about the services available in school-based oral health programs. Teachers can also help interested students pursue oral health careers.

What School Nurses Should Do

Review prevention and response strategies for oral injury. Print and post RIDOH’s Dental Trauma Decision Tree.

Oversee and organize the dental screening of students as required by state regulations.

  • Use the Rhode Island School Dental Screening Form (Spanish) (Portuguese) to document results for students screened by the school dentist.
  • Make a copy of the Rhode Island School Dental Screening Form to notify parent/guardian of student who may have a dental problem and need dental care.
  • Report aggregate data only for grades K, 3, and 6 (if 6th grade is screened) to the Department of Health using Online Dental Screening Reporting form. MORE
  • Contact us if you do not have information about the online reporting form.
  • Review screening findings. Use the RIDOH Find Dental Care link to find a dentist or Find a Dentist on the UHC RIte Smiles page.
  • Dental screenings can be performed safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Consider the following guidance, modified from Infection Prevention & Control Guide for School Sealant Programs from the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP).:
    • Before the dental visit
      • Confirm that all dental personnel are equipped with PPE.
      • Provide school dentist with your school’s COVID-19 protocol, if applicable.
      • Establish a protocol for screenings and/or sealants with less crowding and good use of space.
    • On day of visit
      • Screen dental personnel for symptoms of COVID-19
      • Designate site for dental team
        • For screening, if weather permits, perform screening outdoors.
        • If weather is inclement, or for sealant placement, select an indoor area with good ventilation where floors and surfaces are easy to clean.
    • During visit
      • Students should wait in line outside of the screening/sealant placement area to reduce crowding, if applicable.
      • Students wearing masks will remove their mask for the screening exam and replace once complete (15-30 seconds).
      • Dental team uses personal protective equipment (PPE) according to OSAP recommendations.
      • Dispose of all single-use items.
    • After the visit
      • Ask school administrators to contact the school dentist if a student develops signs or symptoms or is diagnosed with COVID-19 up to 2 days after visit. The school dentist should also contact the school if team members develop signs or symptoms or are diagnosed with COVID-19.

What Teachers Should Do

The classroom provides a great opportunity to teach children about the importance of oral health and how to stay healthy. Many websites have activity sheets and enjoyable experiments to help children learn about the importance of good oral health. These include:

  • Free Oral Health Education Resources (2020) The National Children’s Oral Health Foundation, through their website America’s Tooth Fairy, provides resources for teachers, including lesson plans, posters, and activity sheets.
  • Classroom Ideas & Resources is provided by the American Dental Association to help teachers plan dental health-related presentations, lessons, hands-on activities, and more.
  • Healthy & Ready to Learn; Manageable health conditions can keep kids from doing well in school and set them back for life. Children's Health Fund is committed to identifying and treating these Health Barriers to Learning so that every child has a chance to succeed in school and in life.
  • Children’s Dental Health Books. This resource from the University of Maryland Health Sciences Library lists books about oral health for children under age 7.
  • Dentalcare.com Lesson Plans: ready-made oral health lesson plans including teaching guides, classroom experiments and more from Crest/Oral-B.