Oklahoma dentists offer free back-to-school screenings

      With school fast approaching the Oklahoma Dental Association says make time for a regular screening.

      The U.S. Surgeon General reports that dental decay is the second most prevalent childhood disease, behind only the common cold.

      And studies show it can cause a problem for little ones trying to focus on school. Unlike some states, in Oklahoma screenings are not required for school enrollment. Dentists say many small kids don't go at all.

      "The reason we are gearing toward elementary kids because sometimes they don't have a dental home. So we're encouraging parents to find a dentist for their kids," said Dr. Donna Sparks with Norman Smile Center.

      Two hundred dental offices across the state will offer free screenings for kids Wednesday, July 31.

      Sparks says for kids even the smallest teeth matter. Those baby teeth affect the ones you keep forever.

      "So if they were to lose their baby teeth to decay they could actually produce space problems for the permanent teeth coming in," she explains.

      Last year kids across the country missed out on 51 million school hours thanks to dental illnesses, many of which are preventable.

      "By the time a tooth hurts, there's a big problem," said Sparks.

      If you go often enough, visits should be almost painless - just ask 6-year-old Brad.

      "It's kind of fun," he shrugged.

      Plus there are always a few perks.

      "At the end you get to bring home a goody bag of like your toothpaste floss and stuff," said 8-year-old Katie.

      That way kids can look good and feel good. And spend time thinking about class instead of their teeth.

      All elementary-aged children are eligible. You'll want to make an appointment so you don't have to wait. Click here for a list of participating dentists.