North Shore Health Care Foundation
The NSHCF proactively identifies opportunities to expand equitable health care and healthy living in Cook County and champions solutions through funding, education, and advocacy.
Oral Health
Providing oral health care to the children of Cook County and Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

What is the Oral Health Task Force?
The Oral Health Task Force is a community effort organized and administered by the North Shore Health Care Foundation to address gaps in oral health care for our children. The OHTF includes:
  • Sawtooth Mountain Clinic 
  • Local schools and school nurses,
  • Grand Marais Family Dentistry,
  • Cook County Public Health & Human Services, and
  • the Grand Portage Health Service.

What are our goals?
To provide dental care to the children of Cook County and the Grand Portage Reservation from prenatal to young adults up to 26 years of age.

To make dental screenings, exams, and care more available.

To educate families on the importance of early preventive care and financial programs that makes dental care more affordable.

Why is dental care so important?
Having healthy teeth is an integral part of children's overall health and well-being. Early preventive care such as screenings and sealants can keep teeth healthy and reduce the need for expensive restorative care later. Although tooth decay is almost completely preventable, it is the most common childhood disease. Studies show links between ear and sinus infections, weakened immune systems, diabetes and other serious illnesses. Lack of dental care can affect children's speech, nutrition, growth and development. Over 51 million school hours are lost each year due to dental-related illness.

What do dental screenings involve?
This is a basic screening to help us understand the needs for dental care. We will look to see if a child has sealants, whether they have been to a dentist, and who has greater needs for dental care. We will send follow-up letters to parents of children who we believe could use further care.

Getting dental care for your child
A screening does not replace regular dental care. The Oral Health Task Force has a sliding fee payment program for those without adequate dental insurance.

Sponsored by the Oral Health Task Force and Grand Marais Family Dentistry

This program is made possible by grants from Arrowhead Electric Cooperative,
Aitkins Memorial Fund, Cliffs Foundation, Cook County, Cook County Community Fund, Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation, First and Second Street Thrift Store, Grand Marais Lions and Lioness Club, Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation, Mardag Foundation, Medica Foundation,
Minnesota Dental Foundation, MN Department of Health, Minnesota Power Foundation, North Shore Health Care Foundation, Northland Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Sawtooth Mountain Clinic, St. Luke's Foundation, and Walmart Foundation.

The Oral Health Task Force works to provide dental care to the children of Cook County and the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. We educate the community on the importance of early preventative care and promote financial assistance that makes dental care more affordable.

The Oral Health Task Force offers a generous sliding fee scale program to cover children prenatal to 26 years of age and other dental care needs for children not covered by other programs.

Call Georgene or Bonnie 387-2334
Mail: PO Box 454 Grand Marais, MN 55604


Oral Health Videos



North Shore Health Care Foundation's Oral Health Task Force
Rita Plourde, Jetty St. John, Bill Heitzman, Joni Kristenson, Karl Hansen, Teresa Borak, Dr. Alyssa Hedstrom, Paul Nelson, John Bottger, Georgene Daubanton, and Bonnie Dalin plus Baby Eva. 

At the Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Rural Health Associaton and National Rural Health Resource Center 2017 conference, the Oral Health Task Force received the 2017 Minnesota Rural Health Care Team award.

RuralTeam Award Winner 
In June every year the Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Rural Health Association and National Rural Health Resource Center sponsor the MN Rural Health Conference in Duluth, MN. It brings together approximately 600 health care professionals, educators and legislators who meet to discuss issues the MN health care community now faces.

As Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger notes, at this year’s conference “some of Minnesota’s most talented public health workers receive well-deserved recognition for their service to the state’s rural communities and residents. It takes local innovation to create sustainable solutions and today’s health care workforce is creating visionary collaborations
for the future.”

The North Shore Health Care Foundation's Oral Health Task Force received the 2017 Minnesota Rural Health Team award. The task force works to bring critical preventive and restorative dental care to all infants, children and young adults in Cook County and the Grand Portage Reservation, regardless of their caregivers' ability to pay.
Dr. Ehlinger noted: “The Task Force have shown tremendous leadership in overcoming significant barriers to oral health care such as poverty, maltreatment, transportation and misconceptions about what comprises good oral health. To achieve sustainability, the task force has begun integrating preventive oral health into the work of other medical and social service providers in the county.”

As task force chair Paul Nelson stated at the conference, “With the legislature having greatly
reduced the reimbursement rate to dentists for patients on public assistance (nearly lowest in the nation), dentists and families are faced with the huge denial of care to these young patients. Our project shows them one way of overcoming that. And since our funding to provide care to all based on receiving grants, this award will hopefully help us win more grants.

But this is an unsustainable solution: There aren’t enough foundations to grant enough money to take care of all these children. Perhaps the most meaningful result of this award is a wake-up call to our legislators that fixing the reimbursement rate to dentists is long overdue.”

Dr. Ehlinger closed by stating “The honorees embody the spirit of service and innovation that helped Minnesota build a robust, nationally respected rural health system.... They exemplify the many ways people work to promote health and strengthen rural communities.”

Speech to June 20, 2017 MN Rural Health Conference by Paul Nelson,
Chair of North Shore Health Care Foundation's Oral Health Task Force

Cook County, the tip of Minnesota’s Arrowhead,bestintimes is an beautiful area of dense forests, the BWCA, Lake Superior and quaint towns like Grand Marais, Lutsen and Tofte. But it is a tough place to make a living: In 2016, half of our residents were on SNAP, receiving food stamps. Our reported incidents of child abuse are up 300% in the last five years. One in four households are touched by this abuse. Parents, faced with buying food or taking care of their children’s oral health, will choose food. In light of all that, Dr. Hedstrom and I met and decided we needed to do something about those children’s lack of oral health care. And we needed to pull together a team of community health professionals to help us meet our simple goal: Provide access to oral health care to all children in Cook County and the Grand Portage Reservation, regardless of their caregiver’s ability to pay. We are doing that:

1. We touch virtually every child in the Cook County Schools, including our Independent School District, the two charter schools in Tofte and Grand Marais, preschools, etc.

2. Our original target was all children from 18 months to 18 years. We’ve expanded that to Prenatal to 26 years.

3. Our original intent was to figure out how to identify those children who needed restorative treatments and set up and fund a sliding fee scale that would help caregivers pay for the dental treatments. We are doing that by getting grants from generous and committed foundations like Lloyd K. Johnson, Northland, Delta Dental, Medica and others.

4. Realizing that this was only treating a problem and not curing it, we created or found quality educational materials and have been using those to educate and train children, caregivers, expectant mothers, and the professionals in our community clinic, the dental office, our community health workers and our OHTF staff. If we can help create healthy mouths from birth, we can greatly reduce the pain, health issues and the great expense of restorative dental treatments.

5. But since this program must become sustainable without the constant infusion of money from grantors, we’ve begun integrating our processes into the daily life of these partners - our dental clinic, the community clinic and the community health system. By making this as efficient and economical as we can, we allow these partners to absorb these processes into their regular operations. And continue to improve oral health for all the children in our county and in Grand Portage.

6. Finally, a lot of this work wouldn’t be necessary if our legislators hadn’t put MN in the unconscionable position of having the 49th or 50th lowest public assistance pediatric reimbursement rate in the country! We will continue to do our work, but it’s time for the legislature to fix this problem. 062017 Speech to Rural Health Conference As Todd noted, we’d be happy to answer any questions in the St. Louis River Room during Session 3A from 9:45  to 10:45 am. Thank you for this wonderful award!

We would like to thank the

for their generous donations to the oral health task force.

Website by Katherine Hellner and Sandra Schutte of Two Dogs in the Web, LLC