Portland High School's health center is equipped with resources to accommodate dental hygienists, physicians, social workers and clinical assistants. Credit: Seth Koenig / BDN

Letters submitted by BDN readers are verified by BDN Opinion Page staff. Send your letters to letters@bangordailynews.com

Oral health is critical to overall health but too often we forget the mouth when we talk about health. I am a school nurse and have run vision and hearing screening clinics for children in school. No one argues that being able to see and hear adequately is helpful for learning. However, despite data showing us that dental disease is the most common chronic disease among children and a common reason that children miss school, we are not equipping our schools and school nurses to meet this basic need for the children we serve.

Children who have dental disease might have pain in their mouth, but can also struggle with headaches and stomach aches as a result of the decay. These students show up in the nurse’s office unable to learn because of a disease that is largely preventable with early intervention and prevention services like those provided by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s School Oral Health Program.

The School Oral Health program is already in existence but is unable to serve all schools. There is no need to recreate the wheel to meet this basic need of our students; we just need to expand the program so that all students in Maine can benefit from it.

I ask that the Maine Legislature fully fund  LD 1501, “An Act to Protect Oral Health for Children in Maine” so that school nurses are given the tools they need to keep our students healthy, pain-free, in school, and best able to learn.

Rachel Olmstead