New program aims to improve dental health for children in 17 counties in Minnesota

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FirstToothFirstDentalVisit_logoWILLMAR, Minn. – Dental caries – or cavities — is the most common chronic disease in children, according to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health. Rural children are even more likely to suffer poor oral health and lack access to preventive dental care, often due to lack of dental insurance or a shortage of dental health providers.

A new program, “Pediatric Dentistry Access Project at the Rice Regional Dental Clinic,” aims to increase access to dental care for underserved children and youth in the 17-county service area of West Central and Southwest Minnesota. The goal of the project is to increase community awareness of pediatric dental needs and practices, as well as to create a replicable, holistic and cost-effective model of care for pediatric dental patients in rural communities.

“This project will help us collaborate with local pediatricians and related organizations to encourage greater efficiency in providing oral health preventive services to children, eliminate duplication of services, and develop expanded referral networks,” said Linda Jackson, DDS, clinical director of the Rice Regional Dental Clinic, the major provider of dental care for low-income and public program patients in the 17-county service area of West Central and Southwest Minnesota.

The program is funded through a Healthy Tomorrows Partnership for Children grant that provides approximately $47,000 a year for five years. The funding will help increase the number of patient appointment blocks in an effort to double the number of children served annually, provide education opportunities to dental students, and provide dental students with exposure to local dental practices. The program incorporates Bright Futures oral health materials.

The Healthy Tomorrows Partnership for Children Program is a collaborative effort between the American Academy of Pediatrics and Maternal Child Health Bureau that distributes grants to promote community planning and problem solving at the local level.

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