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​​​​​​​Dental Health Program

The Pennsylvania Public School Code requires certain school health services for all children of school age, regardless of the school setting or disability.  Dental screenings 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. 2024.​

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.

Act 55 - Mandated Dental Program

The mandated dental program previously required the completion of dental examinations by a dentist licensed within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. On December 14, 2023 , Act 55 was signed into law in Pennsylvania. The law amended Section 1403 of the Public School Code, related to dental examinations and dental hygiene services.   Act 55 amended the language of school based “dental examinations" to “dental screenings," and enables public health dental hygiene practitioners (PHDHP) to complete the mandated dental screenings.  

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."​

Use of Mobile Dentist in School Health Programs

Schools choosing to use mobile dentists to fulfill the Mandated Dental Program must ensure that the dentist/PHDHP is licensed within the Commonwealth, and that screenings 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

Authorization Plans are submitted electronically via SHARRS. The link below provides instructions for creating a SHARRS user account and entering the DHSP Authorization Plan. Request a new User Account and enter the DHSP authorization into SHARRS.

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. This authorization plan is a record of what is to occur in the upcoming 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.

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

Details of the services provided through the DHSP are entered into SHARRS during the May 15 to September 30 SHARRS submission time frame. Any changes from the authorization plan are addressed at that time.

DHSP Authorization Forms

The authorization process is electronic through SHARRS. A hardcopy of the DHSP Authorization form is linked below: 

Department of Education Certification as an Educational Specialist - Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists employed by school districts using the Dental Hygiene Services Program 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.