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Illinois public health officials are encouraging parents to get their children back-to-school dental checkups and will offer free screenings at the state fair beginning Friday.

State law requires pupils entering Kindergarten, 2nd and 6th grades to have dental exams before school starts. Officials urge annual checkups for all children.

Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck is director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. He says strong teeth are an important part of overall physical health. Studies show children lose 51 million hours of school time because of dental problems.

Volunteer oral health professionals will provide screenings at the department's Wellness on Wheels mobile health van from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays at the fair. The fair in Springfield runs Friday to Aug. 19.

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