What is the Basic Screening Survey?

Louisiana Oral Health Screenings for Third-Grade Students

The Third-Grade Basic Screening Survey is an oral screening assessment used to determine the oral health status of third-grade students statewide and to identify overall health trends. The standardized, non-invasive open mouth screening is conducted by a dental professional or accredited dental hygiene academia. The screening is pain-free and performed at no cost to students or schools.

Through the Basic Screening Survey, every three to five years Well-Ahead Louisiana screens third-grade students in a random selection of sample schools for signs of untreated and treated tooth decay, dental sealants on permanent molars, cavities (caries) and urgent dental needs. The two-minute screening takes place in school with the goal of minimal class disruption in a designated area deemed appropriate by the school principal, school nurse and Well-Ahead. The screening results are treated as private health information and all data is collected in aggregate form to ensure the privacy of both students and schools.

When the Basic Screening Survey is complete, participating schools will receive a regional snapshot of the data collected.

The Importance of Healthy Smiles

Oral health affects our ability to speak, smile, eat and show emotions. It also affects self-esteem, academic performance and attendance at school. This is why it is so important for schools to take an active role in encouraging oral health for students.

We know that children in low-income families experience greater barriers to accessing dental services.1 In Louisiana, 28.3% of children are in poverty.2 And to make things even more challenging, 86% of Louisiana is a designated Dental Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA)3 meaning there are fewer dentists to support the needs of residents. This is why having access to dental care at schools through dental sealant programs and the Basic Screening Survey can make such a big impact on the oral health of our young residents.

Through the Basic Screening Survey, we are able to measure and monitor the burden and trends of chronic oral disease. The results help guide the prioritization, planning, implementation and evaluation of programs to prevent and control oral disease. The results also support efforts to securing funding for future oral health programming for Louisiana students.

During our last Basic Screening Survey, conducted during the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years, we found that:

  • 26.2% of third grade children in Louisiana that had tooth decay.
  • 56.4% of third grade children in Louisiana that had untreated cavities (caries).
  • 23.1% of third grade children that were referred to a dental provider for immediate treatment.

You can view the full report for the 2017-2018 Basic Screening Survey here.

Results of the Previous Basic Screening Survey by Region

  • Southern Region

    Includes Acadia Parish, Allen Parish, Assumption Parish, Calcasieu Parish, Cameron Parish, East Feliciana Parish, Evangeline Parish, Iberia Parish, Iberville Parish, Jefferson Davis Parish, Lafayette Parish, Lafourche Parish, Livingston Parish, St. Helena Parish, St. Landry Parish, St. Martin Parish, St. Mary Parish, St. Tammany Parish, Tangipahoa Parish, Terrebonne Parish, Vermillion Parish, and Washington Parish.

  • River Region

    Includes Ascension Parish, East Baton Rouge Parish, Jefferson Parish, Orleans Parish, Plaquemines Parish, Point Coupee Parish, St. Bernard Parish, St. Charles Parish, St. James Parish, St. John the Baptist Parish, West Baton Rouge Parish, and West Feliciana Parish.

  • Central Region

    Includes Avoyelles Parish, Beauregard Parish, Catahoula Parish, Concordia Parish, Grant Parish, LaSalle Parish, Natchitoches Parish, Rapides Parish, Sabine Parish, Vernon Parish, and Winn Parish.

  • Northern Region

    Includes Bienville Parish, Bossier Parish, Caddo Parish, Caldwell Parish, Claiborne Parish, De Soto Parish, East Carroll Parish, Franklin Parish, Jackson Parish, Lincoln Parish, Madison Parish, Morehouse Parish, Ouachita Parish, Red River Parish, Richland Parish, Tensas Parish, Union Parish, Webster Parish, and West Carroll Parish.

Get Started

Well-Ahead makes it easy for schools to participate in the Basic Screening Survey!

A Well-Ahead representative will personally reach out to each eligible school to assist them in registering to participate. Throughout the entire process, you will be directly connected to a Well-Ahead team member who will answer any questions that arise and provide you the resources and support you need.

Preparing for the Screening

Schools will work with Well-Ahead to determine the best date to host the screenings during the 2023/2024 school year. Participating schools will also need to provide Well-Ahead with the third grade roster prior to the start of the school year that includes student unique identifiers (state ID #s).

At the start of the school year, schools will share information with parents about the Basic Screening Survey and collect consent forms that need to be submitted to Well-Ahead. To make this process as easy as possible, Well-Ahead developed a letter to inform parents about the oral screenings and get consent for their child to participate. It also includes an optional survey for Well-Ahead to learn more about their child’s dental habits. Download the parent letter.

Based on the children participating in the survey, the school will need to establish a pullout plan for the day of the screenings. The two-minute screening is recommended to be scheduled during extracurricular periods to ensure no disruption to core classes.

Day of the Screening

Your school’s direct point of contact will be connected with a Well-Ahead staff member to ensure a successful screening event. The registered dental hygienist will perform the student screenings in the space provided by the school. They will also complete a form to provide parents with the results of the screening. In the event the child is found to have urgent dental needs, the school nurse will receive a referral to coordinate with the parent or guardian to schedule a visit at the nearest source of care.

Take the Next Step!

Once you’ve participated in the Basic Screening Survey, consider connecting with Well-Ahead to learn how to implement a school sealant program through Louisiana Seals Smiles!


1 U.S. Departmenrt of Health and Human Services

2 America’s Health Rankings: Louisiana. 2017. 

3 U.S. General Accounting Office