Our task force has been doing great work this year: Our sliding fee scale payments subsidizing children’s oral health care are up nearly 300% over this time last year, meaning that our outreach to the community has really taken hold. We have increased our screenings and more parents are bringing their children in for checkups and restorative care (fillings, etc). Best news is that approximately 65% of those payments are for preventative care, rather than restoration, which means our kids in Cook County are truly benefiting by our regular screenings in schools, at homes and at WIC events. So they have healthier mouths, much less decay and should be able to maintain those healthy mouths long into the future. Our investments in education and early contacts are really paying off. But we are concerned about how we maintain this standard of care into the future. The foundations who support our efforts with their wonderful generosity prefer to help organizations get started with new initiatives, but are reluctant to support the organizations’ ongoing operations, feeling the latter divert funds that can help other worthy organizations get started on new healthcare initiatives. So we understand that we need to do something different to keep our oral care operation alive and growing. We decided that since we are already working with the community health services, our local dentist and the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic to help provide our services, we should try to “institutionalize” our services. That is, we create an educational and treatment system that is efficient, inexpensive, effective and can be performed by these professionals as part of their standard, daily operation. For example, we are working to upgrade the information our community health nurses give to expectant moms on their home health visits. Further, we will train those nurses to do fluoride varnishes on those moms’ other young children during these home visits. Fluoride varnishes are one of the best tools available to not only prevent tooth decay and related illnesses, but they also neutralize plaque development and can stop already existing decay in its tracks. It takes just a few minutes to apply, is cheap and lasts for months. To complete this transition from Task Force staff and volunteers reaching out to the community to our community health services adopting it as standard operations, we will need a few years to research and develop the best education materials available and train the healthcare professionals on what they need to do while maintaining our present operation. We needed to hire an oral health care professional to do our research, education and training. Thankfully, the Delta Dental Foundation thought our project had merit and gave us a three-year grant to get it done. At the same time, our other granting foundations (Lloyd K. Johnson, Northland, Medica, Mardag plus others) have stuck with us and continue to fund our regular outreach and treatment services. We were equally fortunate to find Bonnie Dalin, a dental hygienist from the Twin Cities who has not only great working experience as a hygienist but has also been involved in outreach services similar to ours. Bonnie moved her family to Grand Marais and began immediately to do our educational research, doing screenings at our local schools and meeting with the community health workers to learn what will and won’t work for them in bringing our services on family visits. With that and the great growth we are experiencing in treating children, we are very optimistic that our oral health initiative will survive and continue to spread throughout Cook County, creating healthy mouths and healthier kids.
Bonnie and Georgene
Bonnie Dalin Hired by Oral Health Task Force
I’d like to first say thank you to everyone at Grand Marias Family Dentistry, OHTF, North Shore Health Care Foundation, and my family who have made this a possibility for me. Looking back six months ago, I never dreamed that I would become a part of something so wonderful in a place that I now call home. I’ve been a registered dental hygienist for the past thirteen years, working in the twin cities for a large practice. I spent several of those years as the Clinical Team Lead, overseeing the clinical operations of the dental team. I moved to Grand Marias in June of this year with my three children and began working both as a Dental Hygienist at Grand Marias Family Dentistry and as the Oral Health Education Coordinator for the Oral Health Task Force. Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation awarded the Oral Health Task Force a three year grant to establish an oral health prevention program that will integrate the health services in Cook County with the dental team. Our goal is to make it the norm for the children and families of Cook County to have dental care along with the knowledge and resources to obtain good oral health. The last three months have been very busy. I have been continuously working on broadening my knowledge of dentistry with a focus on community health and Caries Management by Risk Assessment (CAMBRA), a simple tool used to assess one’s risk for decay based on their dietary habits, frequency of dental care, brushing and flossing habits, and medical issues (especially those that require the use of saliva reducing medications). It looks at the risk factors such as frequent sugary snacks and poor oral health habits and weighs them against the protective factors such as fluoride use from drinking water, toothpastes, and fluoride varnishes. Once the risk is assessed, then the patients’ homecare and fluoride use can be modified to increase these protective factors. Meeting many of the families and children through WIC has been a wonderful opportunity for me. I have had the chance to not only meet some of the families here in Cook County, but also help to provide information, new toothbrushes, and answer questions about oral health for new and expecting mothers and their children. I plan to provide fluoride treatments and risk assessments for the children who come to WIC. Another one of the goals of the OHTF is to prepare an educational component that will be presented to healthcare providers and public health nurses, as well as providing fluoride treatments for their patients. In the near future, I will be making some home visits with public health nurses to provide oral health education to the families of Cook County. Far too often the importance of good oral health in relation to our overall health is overlooked. I’m looking forward to being an educator and a resource for the families of this community.
--Oral Health Education Coordinator
As you just read from the articles written by Paul Nelson and Bonnie Dalin, much is happening here at the Oral Health Task Force. I’m happy to say that the OHTF is in great shape and doing great work. It has been my honor and pleasure to be a part of this for the past four years. Bonnie and I represented the OHTF at Cook County High School ISD 166 on August 31st, 2016. We will also be doing a “Peek in the Mouth” screening at the school on October 17th for K-5th graders. The pre-school children are seen at the dental office in the spring of each year which is paid for by the OHTF. “Free Day” at the dentist is scheduled for November 28th and another in the spring. This is also paid for by the OHTF. Great Expectations and Birch Grove Charter Schools will be held this coming spring. A traveling dental bus visits the Grand Portage Reservation yearly and does dental screenings. My job as coordinator is to set up and coordinate school screenings, do the necessary follow up work for parents, set up and work the “Free Day” at the dental office, special events that happen throughout the year, office work including data entry, invoicing, running monthly committee meetings and minutes. Bonnie will concentrate on the educational component of the Oral Health Task Force. We’re thrilled to have Bonnie on board and I look forward to working with her this coming year.
Georgene Daubanton --Oral Health Task Force Coordinator