Five years ago, New York State approved a law that requests school districts to ask parents/guardians to obtain a student dental health certificate as part of the school enrollment process in various grade levels.
But unlike the requisite annual health examination required by state law, failure to provide a dental certificate won’t prevent a child’s enrollment in the West Islip school district despite what some local dentists claim in local advertising.
The dental health certificate law, passed in 2007 and which went into effect the next year, was driven by the New York State Dental Association and its related Foundation, which is the charitable arm of the NYSDA.
The goal, according to the NYSDA, was to ensure that students not under a dentist’s care can get a free oral assessment as part of the dental health certificate. The NYSDA estimates that 50 percent of school aged children are not getting proper dental attention and that oral health care issues can interfere with everything from eating properly during the school day to speech and class attention issues.
What many parents may not know, however, is that the requested certificate, or potential negative outcome from a dental assessment, won’t prevent a child from attending school. The legislation policy impacts students entering grades kindergarten, second, fourth, seventh and tenth.
According to NYSDA, New York is the only state to have passed such legislation.
“To date, we do not have data regarding how many kids are now getting exams and dental treatment due to the dental health certificate program. The information which is gotten through the certificates is confidential,” Laura Leon, executive director of the New York State Dental Foundation, told Patch in an email.
The NYSDA’s website offers a letter provided by the state education department to New York school district administrators regarding the certificate.
It specifically notes that the law requires that district request or ask for the certificate and also provide parents with a list of dentists offering such needed exams on a free or reduced cost basis.
According to the NYSDA website, there are just five dentists providing such exams.
"Failure to provide such a certificate does not preclude a student’s attendance at school," states the letter, even if the dental review shows extensive dental work is needed, notes the advisory letter.