County endorses plan to provide dental care for needy kidsChildren’s Dental Services of Minnesota is coming to the new Carlton County Community Services building in Cloquet for a dentist and hygienist to provide a full spectrum of reduced-cost dental service to children currently without adequate dental care.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
If anyone were to guess what the most common chronic disease of childhood might be, chances are they’d never guess dental disease. And yet, some 27 percent of children ages 2-5 suffer from it; 20-50 percent of children ages 6-11 do also; and a whopping 50 percent of young people ages 12-19 are likewise victims of chronic dental disease.
Carlton County will soon take affirmative action in turning that trend around, however.
At the March 6 meeting of the Carlton County Committee of the Whole, commissioners and department heads unanimously endorsed a plan to enter into a contract with Children’s Dental Services of Minnesota to provide office space and Internet accessibility in the new Carlton County Community Services building in Cloquet for a dentist and hygienist to provide a full spectrum of reduced-cost dental service to children currently without adequate dental care.
Public Health Supervisor Terri Allen explained that over the past year Carlton County has become the first county in the state to create an “oral health zone” after conducting a series of meetings with residents, dental care providers, parents and grandparents. Allen said access to dental care has been an ongoing concern for children on medical assistance, since the reimbursement rate to dental care providers is less than 50 percent of the actual costs. She said only one of the county’s nine dental care providers indicated they are currently accepting new medical assistance cases, and when that provider’s quota is filled, there won’t be any.
She said the only alternative is currently to refer those children on medical assistance to providers in Deerwood, St. Cloud, Maplewood or Duluth (where she said there is currently a long waiting line).
Registered Nurse Julie Myhre, who is part of the Northeast Minnesota Oral Health Project, said lack of adequate dental care for children has reached an “epidemic level.” Myhre said six of the county’s eight school districts are currently served by Just Kids Dental with preventive services for under-served kids, but a plan for full-spectrum dental care is still lacking.
Sarah Wovcha, executive director of Children’s Dental Services, explained that her agency is a non-profit organization designed to provide dental services to young people and pregnant mothers through public health clinics utilizing local dental care professionals within familiar local surroundings.
“Children’s dental disease is a problem for us all,” said Wovcha. “When our children are not feeling well, they’re not going to do well in school and they will be unable to become the leaders they might otherwise be.”
Wovcha went on to explain that there is no charge to the county to provide the dental services for young people up to the age of 21, only its cooperation, partnership, and the provision of a space for the organization’s professionals to set up their portable equipment in order to provide the services.
Wovcha said the costs of the service are offset by private and corporate donations as well as various state and federal grants that are more widely available to non-profit organizations.
Myhre and Allen pointed out there is currently adequate space available in the county’s Community Services Building in downtown Cloquet to house the portable dental equipment, and they proposed the county endorse the plan.
And it’s a go. On Tuesday morning, March 13, members of the Carlton County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the contract at their regular meeting.