While most states allow minors 12 years and older to consent to services for contraception, prenatal care, or sexually transmitted infections, the same adolescents are required to have parental consent for even preventive oral health care. Many adolescents are denied access to preventive oral health care because of the challenge of securing parental consent for care when parents are unwilling, unable, or unavailable to consent. Our purpose is to examine the barriers to preventive oral health care for U.S. adolescents related to parental consent laws, explore the issues surrounding these laws, and recommend policy changes. We explain the current range and status of consent laws across the country and arguments for parental consent law as it now stands. We discuss the difficulty of applying general medical consent law to preventive oral health care, neuroscience research on cognitive capacity among adolescents, and the distinction between parental consent and adolescent assent. We recommend replacing required “opt-in” consent with simpler “opt-out” consent; developing a tool for assessing adolescent decision-making capacity; advocating for consent laws that apply specifically to preventive oral health care; and empowering school nurses to lead local, state, and nationwide policy and legislation efforts.
Policy, Politics, & Nursing Practice – SAGE
Published: Nov 1, 2017