Groups reach out to provide dental services

Shiloh Morphew-Japp, 5, shows off her pearly whites after Dr. Gina Andersland performed routine dental check at Allstar Childcare in Milaca last Tuesday. The free dental services were provided through a partnership between Children’s Dental Services and Head Start.

Shiloh Morphew-Japp, 5, shows off her pearly whites after Dr. Gina Andersland performed routine dental check at Allstar Childcare in Milaca last Tuesday. The free dental services were provided through a partnership between Children’s Dental Services and Head Start.

Minnesota’s Children’s Dental Services has teamed up with Head Start to provide much needed cavity checks, cleanings and fluoride treatments for young children covered by MinnesotaCare or other government health insurance programs.

Affiliated dentists were in Milaca last Tuesday serving students in Milaca’s AllStar Childcare Center, the Head Start headquarters for the area.

It was the first year Children’s Dental Services had visited Milaca and other rural areas and organizers hope to be back soon, perhaps even several times throughout the months.

“We mostly work out of Minneapolis/St. Paul,” said Dr. Gina Andersland.

A recent Minnesota Department of Health study found that 55 percent of third graders surveyed in 2010 experience tooth decay. This compares to the national rate of 53 percent for children six to eight years old. The study also found that  low-income children bear the greatest burden of oral diseases in Minnesota.

“Children eligible for free or reduced lunch were almost one and a half times more likely to experience tooth decay and almost three times more likely to have the decay go untreated than more affluent peers,” stated an MDH release.

The state, as well as Head Start, Children’s Dental Services, Early Childhood and Family Education and other community programs are now focusing on serving these at-risk kids and their families, with an emphasis on rural areas like Milaca.

“It’s extremely hard to get kids to a dentist because for one, most of them are full,” said Lakes and Pines Head Start health manager Pam Covington. Another reason, she added, was that fewer and fewer employers offer dental coverage as part of their benefits package at all.

More than 15 children received a free cleaning and fluoride treatment last week as part of those efforts.

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