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Dental Health Program

28 PA Code (regulations) 23.3(a)* states "Dental examinations shall be required on original entry into school and in grades three and seven." Schools have two options for fulfilling this requirement, a mandated dental program or a dental hygiene services program.

Guidelines for the School Dental Health Program for Pennsylvania's School Age Children and Adolescents. The intent of these guidelines is to assist schools in implementing school dental health programs. They provide directions for staffing, documenting and evaluating school dental health programs. Reviewed/Revised Feb. 2023.

Pennsylvania Laws and Regulations Specific to Dental Health Programs

Requirements for School Dentist

Article XIV of the Pennsylvania Public School Code requires that public school entities hire school dentists. Appointments shall be approved by the Department of Health. To request approval for a school dentist, the school entity must submit a request in writing on district letterhead and include: 1) name of the dentist as it appears on their license; 2) their license number and 3) date of decision to contract with this dentist. The letter is only required when contracting with a new dentist. The request must be mailed to: Division of School Health, 30 Kline Plaza, Harrisburg, PA 17104.

Use of Public Health Dental Hygiene Practitioners (PHDHP) in School Health Programs
The Pennsylvania Dental Law was amended by Act 51 of 2007 to include the definition and practice of a public health dental hygiene practitioner. While limiting their practice sites, the law does list schools as an allowable practice site for a PHDHP. The Department of State, Board of Dentistry, updated their regulations to provide clarity regarding PHDHP practice. 49 PA Code, Section 33.205b(c) states that a PHDHP "may perform dental hygiene services without the supervision of a dentist in the following practice settings: (1) Public and private educational institutions that provide elementary and secondary instruction to school aged children under the jurisdiction of the State Board of Education, and in accordance with all applicable provisions of the Public School Code of 1949, the regulations relating to the certification of professional personnel in 22 PA Code Chapter 49, and the regulations of the Department of Health."

The provisions referenced from the Departments of Education and Health require that dental hygienists may only function in schools as part of an approved dental hygiene program and must have attained certification from the Department of Education as an Educational Specialist- Dental Hygienist. The PHDHP may sign the authorization forms for the Dental Hygiene Services Program, however, the school is still required to have a dentist of record.

Mandated Dental Program

The mandated dental program requires the completion of dental examinations by a dentist licensed within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Dental hygienists may NOT complete the mandated examinations, including Public Health Dental Hygiene Practitioners (PHDHP).

Schools choosing to use mobile dentists must ensure that the dentist is licensed within the Commonwealth, that the examinations are completed by a dentist and that examinations in the mandated grades (K or 1st grade, 3rd grade and 7th grade) are provided free-of-charge to students.

Dental Hygiene Services Program (DHSP)

DHSP Authorization

The Authorization Plan will now be submitted electronically via SHARRS. The link below provides instructions for creating a SHARRS user account and entering the DHSP Authorization Plan.

Schools who do not submit an authorization form for approval will find the mandated dental forms on the SHARRS report at the end of the school year and will not be able to enter the DHSP services that were provided and will not receive reimbursement for those services.

SHARRS will be opened from May 15 through September 30 for submission of the reimbursement report.

The Dental Hygiene Authorization Plan will open April 1 and close April 30. The plan may be submitted by any authorized SHARRS school user. The Dental Hygiene Authorization Plan must be closed before SHARRS can be opened in order for the system to process reports correctly. Schools that have a Dental Hygiene Services Program and do not have a hygienist hired, a plan developed and approved by the school dentist and administrator, submitted to the Division of School Health timely will automatically revert to a Mandated Dental Program. 

Once reverted to a mandated program it cannot be changed to a dental hygiene program after the closing date due to processing requirements. The Dental Hygiene Authorization Plan is to be entered for the upcoming school year. For example, the authorization plan should be entered between April 1 and April 30, 2018 for the 2018-2019 school year.

While plans are to be maintained at the school and reviewed every three years, the authorization is required to be entered annually via SHARRS.

This authorization plan is a record of what is to occur in the upcoming school year. What actually took place is entered into SHARRS during the May 15 to September 30 submission time frame. Any changes from the authorization plan are addressed at that time. Unlike the actual SHARRS report that must be submitted by the Superintendent/CEO any user may submit the authorization plan, no later than April 30. Click on the link for instructions on how to Request a new User Account and enter the DHSP authorization into SHARRS.

DHSP Authorization Forms

Schools with DHSP are required to annually submit authorization forms to the Department of Health. The authorization process is electronic through SHARRS. See form and additional documents below: 

Department of Education Certification as an Educational Specialist - Dental Hygienist

All dental hygienists working in the school setting are to be certified as an Educational Specialist- Dental Hygienists. There are currently no certification programs for school dental hygienists. There is a process in place for certification to be obtained.

PDE accepts the following for certification as an Educational Specialist – Dental Hygienist:

  1. Bachelor's degree;
  2. Valid Pa. Dept. of State-issued dental hygienist license;
  3. Good moral character and U.S. Citizenship,
  4. Transcripted coursework from an accredited college/university to meet the competencies stated in the guidelines (Specialist-Dental Hygienist K-12):
    • Methods of health/health care instruction;
    • Organization, administration, law and operation of public schools;
    • Adolescent and child development.
  5. A supervised practicum (at least 60 hours) serving as a school dental hygienist.  The practicum may be met by working on a Pennsylvania public long-term emergency certificate under a certified education specialist - school dental hygienist.  If the LEA does not have a licensed hygienist, the principal may supervise and a certified hygienist from a neighboring district may mentor the candidate. PDE has a list of certified hygienists willing to mentor.

You must apply for the Educational Specialist certificate using the online Teacher Information Management System (TIMS)

Until this process is complete, the school should apply for an Emergency Certificate from the Department of Education. Emergency certificates are submitted through the Teacher Information Management System (TIMS).

Requirements for Certified School Dental Hygienists

Pennsylvania Department of Education Certification Staffing and Policy Guidance (CSPG) #75- Dental Hygienist.

Educator Effectiveness Tool Non-Teaching Professional – School Health Specialist

Dental Health Program Forms

Schools will need to print copies of the Private Dentist Report and School Dental Health Record.

It is recommended that schools provide the dental exam forms on their respective websites for parents or provider offices to print, as needed.

  • School Dental Form (PDF)
    This form may be used by both the mandated and dental hygiene programs as the dental portion of a student's comprehensive health record. This form may be used by both the mandated and dental hygiene programs as the dental portion of a student's comprehensive health record. Schools may accept exams on the private dentist's own form as long as it comparable to the DOH approved form. Schools may accept exams on the private dentist's own form as long as it comparable to the DOH approved form.