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Dental funds available to keep kids’ teeth healthy

Brandi Holland with the Collins Dental Center demonstrates proper dental hygiene techniques with an oversized set of teeth and toothbrush. Holland and others with Collins Dental Center use these tools to ensure kids know the proper steps to keeping their teeth healthy. (photo by Gwen Ring)

Brandi Holland with the Collins Dental Center demonstrates proper dental hygiene techniques with an oversized set of teeth and toothbrush. Holland and others with Collins Dental Center use these tools to ensure kids know the proper steps to keeping their teeth healthy. (photo by Gwen Ring)

The phrase “open wide” sends some into shivers and tenses their muscles. Health professionals locally are combating that reaction and a lack of dental care in youth by offering resources to parents who might be hindered by financial concerns.

Caroline Rodier with the Partnership for Children says introducing a child to a dentist early on in life prevents such anxiety and ensures better dental health throughout his or her life.

“Research has shown that if a child starts out with proper oral health they are more likely to have less cavities and be able to prevent worse dental issues down the road,” Rodier said.

Rodier said a child should visit a dentist by they time he or she is 1-year-old or when his or her first tooth erupts.

“That’s to make sure the child’s mouth is developing properly and that everything is healthy,” Rodier said.

She said in Polk County one in three kids entering kindergarten has untreated tooth decay. The Partnership for Children (PFC) an- Dental funds available to keep kids teeth healthy announced last week that dental funds through the Health Services Resource Administration are currently available to assist children age birth to 5 with dental health needs.

Children must reside in Polk, McDowell or Rutherford counties to apply and their families must meet income eligibility guidelines, which amount to making 250 percent of the 2012 federal poverty level.

“Medicaid stops at 200 percent of the poverty level, so this reaches some families that make just a little too much money to qualify for Medicaid but they may still be struggling,” Rodier said.

Rodier said the money is awarded depending on the family’s particular situation. She said some families may have dental insurance but haven’t taken their children to the dentist because they can’t afford the copays.

If a family qualifies, a dental hygienist will complete an assessment to help the program decide how much to fund the dentist of the family’s choice. Rodier said the money is paid directly to the dentist that performs the services.