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School kids in White Earth get proactive dental care

The dental department of the White Earth Health Center is implementing a prevention model to help children avoid problems while they're still young.

The department is collaborating with all schools on the White Earth Reservation to provide mobile dental clinics with free screenings to all students.

Dr. Yvette Woodard, acting chief dental officer, said the clinics are offered within three counties -- in Pine Point, Naytahwaush, Mahnomen Ogema, Waubun, White Earth and Callaway schools, head starts and day cares.

"We're just trying to increase the opportunity for the kids to be seen," she said.

With the clinics located in White Earth and Naytahwaush, transportation sometimes becomes an issue for parents to take their kids in for regular check-ups. Having the clinics available at the schools is a better way to reach the majority of students living on the reservation.

"It's pretty convenient to families ... it saves them a trip to the clinic," said Waubun-Ogema-White Earth Superintendent Mitch Anderson.

The mobile clinics were understaffed in previous years and there was a gap of about two years where they weren't provided.

"Last year it was cumbersome with one doctor trying to do all," Woodard said.

This year more dentists, hygienists and assistants are coordinating schedules with the schools for exams and sealant and fluoride treatments.

"This is just a way for us to make sure nobody fall through the cracks," Woodard added.

When follow-up treatments are recommended, the students are referred to Indian Health Services for help as long as they're eligible for Native American benefits.

Clinics began screening at Waubun Secondary School this week. Parents are asked to fill out consent forms in order for their children to participate.

Students of all ages are eligible for the exams.

"If we start early we can just cut down the care. That's why the day cares were pulled in," Woodard said. "We're trying to catch everything early. We'd rather prevent than extract."