The Basic Screening Survey for Third-Graders
What is the Basic Screening Survey?
Every five years, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) screens third-graders for cavities. MDH-trained dental hygienists look inside kids' mouths and note any signs of tooth decay or cavities. MDH will also check if kids have dental sealants and measure their heights and weights. The Basic Screening Survey is a no-touch assessment of oral health and does not replace regular dental visits. No treatment or X-rays are taken during the screening.
The Basic Screening Survey provides a snapshot of the oral health of Minnesota’s kids and information about trends in overall health, growth and development. The Basic Screening Survey data can help pinpoint unmet health needs that could be barriers to health, learning or development. MDH analyzes the data every five years to see trends and any statistical differences by demographics. Findings from the Basic Screening Survey will be used to help inform and improve policies and programs.
The next screening is taking place during the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 school years. The screening was slated for the 2020 school year but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Data will likely be released in 2024. Continue to check back for updated information and sign up for oral health email updates.
2015 data can be found at the MN Public Health Data Access Portal - Oral Health in Minnesota.
MDH also conducted a Basic Screening Survey for older adults in 2016, assessing oral health among adults 65 years and older who were living in skilled nursing facilities. View the screening findings and learn more about oral health of older adults in Minnesota.
Why is children's oral health important?
Cavities are almost entirely preventable, yet they continue to be the most common chronic childhood illness in America.1 If not treated, tooth decay (which causes cavities) can cause pain, infection and tooth loss. It can also create problems with eating, speaking and learning.
Taking care of teeth helps kids be healthy. It is also important for school readiness. It’s estimated that 51 million school hours are lost each year because of oral health problems. The number of missed school days is greater for children from low-income families.2
How does the Basic Screening Survey affect children's oral health?
The Basic Screening Survey provides population level as well as individual benefits for improving children's oral health.
- Students benefit from early detection of dental needs.
- Schools benefit from understanding the needs of their students through a custom school report, the first step to keeping students in the classroom.
- Participating schools are entered to win a free Hydration Station.
- Families of any students with urgent dental care needs benefit from early detection and referral, including low-cost dental clinics in their community.
The Basic Screening Survey provides educational resources and materials for improving oral health care practices:
- Oral hygiene tools for participating students, including toothbrushes, dental floss, fluoridated toothpaste, and a timer for brushing.
- Educational materials for all students about oral health care.
- Classroom script for teachers to lead conversations about health and growth.
- Training and educational materials for school nurses to be used for school-led initiatives.
When and where is the screening happening?
MDH-trained dental hygienists will conduct the screening at about 70 elementary schools across the state. Schools were selected through random sampling, with factors to ensure diverse representation of communities across the state. The sample includes both urban and rural schools, ethnically diverse schools and schools with high free-and-reduced price lunch eligibility.
The letter of support for the Basic Screening Survey for 3rd graders from the Commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Health Jan Malcom and the Commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Education Heather Mueller can be found below.
Notice of Rights
The Notice of Rights to Participation outlines the scope of the authority to collect data and the rights of participants, details what information is collected, how it is kept safe, and how it is used, and explains the benefits and potential risks of participation.
These informational handouts inform school administrators about the benefits of participating in the Basic Screening Survey and details the screening process for participating schools.
MDH recognizes that screenings of oral health and growth may lead to difficult conversations around health and body image. Therefore, MDH has provided a script for teachers to use in their classrooms to talk about the screening with students and to provide helpful tips for answering student questions on difficult topics.
1Children’s Oral Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
2Altarum Institute. Issue Brief: Oral Health is Critical to the School Readiness of Children in Washington, D.C. Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.