Smiles Across Minnesota

Oct. 19, 2010
School-based dental program targets elementary school and Head Start children.

INTERNATIONAL FALLS, Minnesota--Smiles Across Minnesota has expanded its statewide preventive dental program to several Northern Minnesota school districts:.

These districts include International Falls, South Koochiching--Rainy River and Littlefork--Big Falls. The program will help improve the oral health of uninsured and underinsured children. Smiles Across Minnesota provides children ages three to 12 with preventive dental services. This includes cleanings, fluoride treatments, and sealants within the schools at no cost to the schools.

“We are pleased to help bring this important program to some of our most northern Minnesota school districts as it aligns with our focus on helping youth and children succeed,” Shelley Valentini, executive director, United Way of Northeastern Minnesota.

“When Children’s Dental Services and Delta Dental of Minnesota introduced the Smiles Across Minnesota program to us, we realized it fit the exact need of our communities as on average 50% of our children are eligible to receive these services. Children need to be able to attend school at their healthiest to increase their potential for learning.”

Dental services will be offered to all students at participating schools and administered by a local dental hygienist and dental assistant employed by Children’s Dental Services.

“Preventive measures, such as education, sealants and fluoride treatments, have a long-term impact on a child’s future dental health and well-being,” explained Sarah Wovcha, executive director of Children’s Dental Services and co-chair of Smiles Across Minnesota.

“Community based programs are cost-effective. Children receiving dental sealants in school-based programs have 60% less decay for up to five years. We anticipate serving 500-800 children in the first year.”

Children’s Dental Services will provide care for children on public assistance. Uninsured students who are income-eligible will receive free care through the program, paid for by charitable corporate and foundation contributions.

If a family already has commercial insurance, those children and their parents will be encouraged to visit their previously established dental home. If they do not have a primary dentist, children will be referred either to a local dentist or the family will be assisted in finding appropriate services. All children receiving care will need parental consent.

“As the state’s largest dental benefits administrator, we are extremely pleased to see the problems of dentally uninsured and underserved children being acknowledged as an important unmet healthcare need,” said Ann Johnson, director of community affairs at Delta Dental of Minnesota and co-chair of Smiles Across Minnesota.

“We are also pleased to provide start-up funds for the program and partner with three outstanding Minnesota organizations that are deeply committed to improving the health of underserved children--Oral Health America, Children’s Dental Services, and United Way of Northeastern Minnesota.

“Smiles Across Minnesota is a model Smiles Across America program partner, demonstrating how to successfully collaborate with communities and expand services, while identifying needs and eliminating barriers to oral health care and education throughout the state,” said Beth Truett, president and CEO of Oral Health America.

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