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Iowa Department of Health and Human Services

OHDS - School Dental Screenings

Women looking into a child's mouthAll children newly enrolling in an Iowa elementary or high school are required to have a dental screening. This requirement was passed by the 2007 legislature and became effective July 1, 2008. The purpose of the dental screening requirement is to improve the oral health of Iowa's children. Dental screenings help with early detection and treatment of dental disease, promote the importance of oral health for school readiness and learning, and contribute to statewide surveillance of oral health.

Dental screenings are provided by an integrated network of health care professionals to supplement Iowa's dental workforce. Regional I-Smile coordinators, serving at the "hub" of this network, partner with schools to assist students who need a screening or require follow-up dental care.

 The following are highlights of the school dental screening requirement:

  • The requirement applies to kindergarten and ninth grade students only.
  • A screening for kindergarten may be performed by a licensed dentist, dental hygienist, physician, nurse, advanced registered nurse practitioner, or physician assistant.
  • A screening for ninth grade may be performed by a licensed dentist or dental hygienist only.
  • Screenings performed by out-of-state providers are allowed.
  • The Iowa Department of Public Health Certificate of Dental Screening is the only acceptable form.
  • A screening for kindergarten is valid from age three years to four months after enrollment date.
  • A screening for ninth grade is valid from one year prior to enrollment to four months after enrollment date.

2018-2019 Audit Report Summary

The 2018-2019 school year marked the 11th year since the implementation of the school dental screening requirement in Iowa. This law requires that all children newly enrolling in kindergarten or ninth grade in an Iowa public or accredited non-public elementary or high school provide proof of a dental screening. Religious and financial hardship exemptions are allowed. The requirement does not include preschool or homeschooled students and their data was not included in this report.

This report includes student information from schools that submitted useable audit data through an electronic School Dental Screening Record Review form. Out of the 1,140 Iowa schools with kindergarten or ninth grade students in 2018-2019, audit data was submitted for 1,131 schools. This resulted in a school compliance rate of 99.2 percent. This was an increase from 96.3 percent in the 2017-2018 school year, and shows significant improvement in school compliance since the initial rate of 69 percent in the first year of program implementation.

According to the Iowa Department of Education, there were 81,633 total students enrolled in kindergarten and ninth grade (K – 42,003; ninth – 39,630) during the 2018-2019 school year. Valid certificates (screening or exemption) were submitted for 55,431 students, resulting in a student compliance rate of 67.9 percent. This rate has remained relatively constant over the past few years, with compliance rates of 64.7 percent (2017-2018), 68.3 percent (2016-2017), 70 percent (2015-2016), 70.7 percent (2014-2015), and 70.3 percent (2013-2014).

For those schools included in the 2018-2019 audit report:

Valid Certificates

  • 69.8% of students submitted a Certificate of Dental Screening
  • <0.1% of students submitted a Certificate of Dental Screening Exemption

Treatment Needs

  • 14.4% of the students had treatment needs
    • 12.4% required dental care
    • 2.0% required urgent dental care

Provider Types

  • 60.2% of students were screened by a dentist
  • 31.4% of students were screened by a dental hygienist • 7.2% of students were screened by a nurse
  • 1.2% of students were screened by a physician or physician assistant

The comprehensive audit report includes three sections: a state summary; a school summary with detailed data by county, district and school; and a key that defines the data categories.

For audit reports visit the Reports & Data tab.

Program Documents