Helping fix smiles

HURON – Thousands of underserved children with oral care needs are benefiting each year through a partnership program between Delta Dental of South Dakota and local organizations.
One of the two trucks staffed by dentists, hygienists, assistants and coordinators is in Huron through next week.
Delta Dental communications manager Mike Mueller said the local site partners are the Huron Kiwanis Club and the Huron School District.
Site partners pay a $2,500 stipend each week, representing 11 percent of the $23,000 weekly cost of operating a truck, which are fully equipped dental clinics on wheels.
Eligible patients are those who are 21 years old and younger who haven’t seen a local dentist for two years or more, or live more than 85 miles away from a dentist, Mueller said.
The mobile program began in 2004 in a special partnership with Ronald McDonald House Charities. Demand and need prompted Delta Dental to purchase a second truck in 2008, the first year a truck has been coming to Huron.
In the two-week period a year ago, 86 patients were seen. The value of the care provided was $76,847.
Twenty-two percent of those kids said it was the first time they had ever seen a dentist. Sixty-eight percent had no insurance, and most of the rest were covered by Medicaid.
A Delta Dental truck will come to a community based on a request, Mueller said.
The trucks have visited 81 communities and provided more than $16.5 million in dental care to more than 30,000 patients since the program began.
The dental staffs are on the road an average of 40 weeks a year.
Delta Dental of South Dakota is the largest and oldest dental benefits company in the state.
It is a nonprofit organization that has invested more than $25 million to improve access to care, provide prevention and education, and further research.