NCOHF affiliate reaches Minnesota’s at-risk children
by Kristin Kenyon
For years, dental hygienists have been on the front line of a war against pediatric dental disease — the No. 1 chronic childhood illness in our country. Now hygienists have found a powerful ally in National Children’s Oral Health Foundation (NCOHF): America’s Toothfairy. The two are partners in an aggressive movement to eliminate children’s suffering from a completely preventable epidemic.
NCOHF supports a national affiliate network of nonprofit pediatric health care facilities providing critical preventive, educational, and restorative oral health services to children from vulnerable populations. While each affiliate model is unique, the employees and volunteers involved all share a laudable commitment to the well-being of our nation’s most underserved children. For one NCOHF Affiliate program in Minnesota, a life-changing oral health program blossomed from the vision of a single dental hygienist.
Hygienist launches Just Kids Dental
Stacey Anderson, RDH, left a 20-year private practice career in 2006 to launch Just Kids Dental, a mobile dental clinic that serves at-risk children in her home area of northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin. Just Kids Dental provides basic screenings, oral health education, cleanings, fluoride varnish, and sealant applications through fully equipped portable dental clinics that travel to 17 schools in four school districts each year.
Other major components of each clinic are assisting families with the Medicaid application process and establishing a “dental home” for follow-up comprehensive care. Anderson says, “Parents are often overwhelmed at the prospect of finding a dentist due to access to care barriers, including inflexible work schedules, lack of transportation, eligibility processes, and costs.” Just Kids Dental removes these barriers by delivering preventive services in school settings and working with families to ensure they have the tools to continue proper oral health routines after they visit the clinic.
Operating with a paid staff of three and a 70-member volunteer team, Just Kids Dental has conducted more than 5,000 dental visits and placed over 15,000 sealants in elementary and middle school students since 2006. Anderson emphasizes, “The kind support of caring professionals, community members, school administrators, teachers, nurses, parents, and PTA volunteers is essential to the success of Just Kids Dental clinics.”
In addition to a dedicated volunteer base, “The support Just Kids Dental receives from NCOHF is invaluable,” Anderson says. “Program funding and product donations assist to sustain deliverable services, but the mentoring and support of caring NCOHF personnel makes an immeasurable difference!” Affiliate partners range in size from university dental schools to small mobile units like Just Kids Dental, but all benefit from NCOHF contributions and shared resources that facilitate expanded and enhanced pediatric health-care programs.
“I have never seen an organization so passionate and committed to providing oral health care to underserved children,” says Anderson. “Just Kids Dental is extremely proud to be an NCOHF Affiliate partner.” Anderson’s own passion for children’s oral health is evident in her message to professionals across the country. “With the existing opportunities available to dental hygienists today, there is no time like the present to address the issue of pediatric dental disease.”
To learn more about NCOHF or join the America’s Toothfairy Dental Hygienists Campaign, visit www.AmericasToothfairy.org. Generous corporate underwriting ensures that 100% of all donations are directed to NCOHF Affiliate health-care programs for underserved children nationwide.
Kristin Kenyon is the Communications and Development Manager at National Children’s Oral Health Foundation.