Dental disease is one of the most common reasons for school absences (CDA). Children with untreated dental problems can often be in pain, cannot sleep at night, makes it difficult to concentrate, and can cause a child to get poor school grades (CSBA). Many young children are unable to communicate that they are in pain from a toothache. Lack of access or trouble finding a dentist can make it difficult for children to get the necessary dental treatment.

Since 2006, California requires children receive an oral health screening by their first year of public school.

The Kindergarten Oral Health Assessment (KOHA) is a dental screening for children entering school. It is an assessment to see if there are any signs of tooth decay. The KOHA is not a dental exam with x-rays and does not involve making a treatment plan. It helps identify children with untreated dental disease and helps parents find a dental home for their children. Because of COVID-19, some children may not be getting the dental care they need.

Why is the Kindergarten Oral Health Assessment important for families?

  • Helps inform parents to take positive action.
  • Helps a child see a dentist for preventive dental checkups or treatment.
  • Helps avoid future dental problems, missed school days, and
  • Fewer lost workdays for parents and guardians.

How can data from the KOHA help communities?

  • Increase awareness about the importance of oral health.
  • Informs the community to address the needs of oral health.
  • Can help plan public health programs.
  • Track progress with respect to children’s oral health.

How is the KOHA completed? The KOHA dental screening consists of a form provided with the kindergarten registration packet. The form can be completed by a dental office or through a school with a School Dental Program. Click here to see a sample form. The form needs to be completed by May 31 of a child’s first school year. Please note, there is a section on the form a parent or guardian can fill to be excused from the dental screening if they are unable to have the oral health assessment completed.

Completing the KOHA Form by a Dental Office.

  • A dental professional can complete the KOHA form during a dental check-up visit. A parent or guardian can return the form to the school office.
  • A child that had a dental check-up within 12 months before starting kindergarten, or first grade will meet the requirement. A parent can ask the dentist to fill in the form.

Completing the KOHA Form by a School Dental Program.

  • Some schools may have a School Dental Program that can provide an onsite dental screening and other preventive dental services such as molar sealants by a licensed dental professional. Parents can contact their child’s school and ask if a dental program is offered through their school.

How can you support families with the Kindergarten Oral Health Assessment?  

  • Community and school partners. Please remind parents or guardians to take their child to a dentist and have the KOHA form completed. For families that need a dental home, please provide them with:
  • Medical and Dental Providers. Please discuss the KOHA with parents during a wellness checkup or during a child’s dental visit before they enter kindergarten. Providers can also share information on the importance of oral health to overall health and school readiness.

Children who are healthy and have good oral health are ready to start school.

Additional resources to share with parents.


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