West Virginia strives for cleaner oral health among students
West Virginia educators now have access to an updated oral health curriculum for students, as written by the state’s Department of Health and Human Resources and Office of Maternal, Child and Family Health this past summer.
Dr. Jason Roush, West Virginia’s state dental director, says the updated curriculum expands upon the West Virginia Department of Education’s oral health standards by adding classroom lesson plans and activities that are tailored for preK through grade 12. Previously, the standards listed what should be taught, but teachers were looking for resources to better communicate that message to students.
Educators can access these age-appropriate classroom materials through the state Department of Education’s Office of Healthy Schools’ website. “We wanted to make sure this curriculum was free and easily accessible,” Roush says. “By providing these materials, we also have a way to send a standardized message for all schools. The old system provided the health information, but didn’t provide ways to communicate it.”
About one-third of West Virginia’s public preK students have tooth decay and 21 percent need urgent dental treatment, according to the 2012 statewide “PreK Oral Health Surveillance” study. “Overall, the new curriculum is about spreading a preventative message,” Roush explains. “Simple concepts include the importance of going to the dentist, fluoride, and nutrition. For high school students, we included lessons about smoking, mouth piercings, and using mouthguards while playing sports.”
Roush says the new program also allowed for having funds for full-time, regional oral health coordinators to manage statewide education. Coordinators will be responsible for providing oral health education training in schools, assist in expanding school-based preventive care initiatives such as dental sealant and fluoride care, and promoting good oral hygiene.
“Prior to this, we utilized part-time hygienists to go into schools and provide the education,” Roush says. “The problem was because they were part-time, we had limited opportunity to make sure every child had access to oral health education. Now that we have the full time support, we hope to better reach all children in West Virginia.