School Dental Screenings

All 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 3 years to four months after enrollment date.
  • A screening for 9th grade is valid from one year prior to enrollment to four months after enrollment date.

2016-2017 Audit Report Summary

The 2016-2017 school year marked the ninth 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.

The report includes student information from schools that submitted useable audit data through an electronic School Dental Screening Record Review form. Out of the 1,161 Iowa schools with kindergarten or ninth grade students in 2016-2017, audit data was submitted for 1,148 schools. This resulted in a school compliance rate of 98.9 percent. This was a decrease from 99.1 percent in the 2015-2016 school year, yet 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 80,203 total students enrolled in kindergarten and ninth grade (K – 41,203, 9th – 39,000) during the 2016-2017 school year. Valid certificates (screening or exemption) were submitted for 54,802 students, resulting in a student compliance rate of 68.3 percent. This rate has remained relatively constant over the past few years, with compliance rates of 70 percent in the 2015-2016 school year, 70.7 percent in the 2014-2015 school year, 70.3 percent in the 2013-2014 school year, 71.1 percent in the 2012-2013 school year and 70.5 percent in the 2011-2012 school year.

For those schools included in the 2016-2017 audit report:

Valid Certificates

  • 70.2% of students submitted a Certificate of Dental Screening
  • <0.1% of students submitted a Certificate of Dental Screening Exemption

Treatment Needs

  • 15.7% of the students had treatment needs
    • 13.7% required dental care
    • 2% required urgent dental care

Provider Types

  • 63.1% of students were screened by a dentist
  • 29.4% of students were screened by a dental hygienist
  • 6.2% of students were screened by a nurse
  • 1.2% of students were screened by a physician or physician assistant

The link to the comprehensive audit report can be found in the Audit Documents section below.

Program Documents

Audit Documents

Program Links