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Got teeth? Mobile dental clinic stops at St. Mary's

It's nothing to smile about.

In a community assessment report prepared for the United Way of Becker County in 2006, access to dental care for adults and children was identified as one of 10 key areas of need for county residents.

A total of 159 agencies in Becker, Mahnomen and Hubbard counties were surveyed, with 77, or 48 percent, responding.

Of those responding, approximately 47 percent indicated a community need "to find a dentist in our community who accepts Medical Assistance/Minnesota Care" as a source of payment.

It was that report, in part, that helped bring about a special event at the St. Mary's Regional Health Center North Campus on Tuesday and again today (Wednesday).

Apple Tree Dental of Hawley brought its mobile, full-service clinic to St. Mary's to give children in Becker County covered by Minnesota Care and Minnesota Medical Assistance the dental care they need.

The clinic offered children from ages 2-10 a full range of dental services, including exams, cleanings, X-rays and treatment by a staff of dentists and hygienists from Apple Tree Dental.

According to Nancy Jost of West Central Initiative, it is a project of the Early Childhood Dental Network, a nine-county multi-disciplinary collaborative project designed to increase awareness and education to all children about the importance of oral health, and increase access to dental care, specifically to those up to age 5 who are on Minnesota Health Care Programs or are uninsured.

Sponsored locally by the Becker County Early Childhood Initiative, and funded by Apple Tree Dental, the Bremer Foundation, Dakota Medical Foundation, the McKnight Foundation's Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative, and West Central Initiative, it is just the first of a series of clinics planned, Jost added.

Also providing funds for the project was the Detroit Lakes Kiwanis Club, which presented a $14,000 check to Jost on Tuesday.

The next clinic in Becker County is scheduled for May 1, at the same location, according to Cyndi Anderson of Mosaic Consulting, who worked with Jost on writing the grant proposals that provided the base funding for the project.

Anderson is also the current chair of the St. Mary's RHC board of directors, and served on the long-range planning committee for the Kiwanis Club.

"It took all of these entities to make this clinic happen," Anderson said Tuesday. "They're all to be commended for the great work they're doing, and this is just the beginning... it's only going to grow from here.

"The beauty of this project is that it's collaborative on many different levels."

According to Jost, the mission of the Early Childhood Dental Network is "two-pronged."

One is the dental outreach clinics, and the other is to provide oral health training for Early Childhood Family Education, Head Start and public health professionals -- "anyone working with families and young children" -- regarding the importance of oral health.

Apple Tree Dental is just one of two dental operations providing the clinics in the nine-county service region: the other is Fergus Falls Dental Group, Jost added.

Clinics are scheduled for one or two days in each community, depending on the perceived need, she said.

"Our goal is to eventually provide services for the uninsured as well," Jost added.

Apple Tree Dental is currently accepting requests for appointments for the May 1 clinic in Detroit Lakes. All appointments must be scheduled in advance, by calling 888-683-1038 (toll free) or 218-483-1038, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454