Miles and miles of smiles

HURON — The Delta Dental Mobile Program set up in Huron for the tenth year in a row to offer check-ups, dental procedures and teeth cleaning, to students and people of the community who are in need of dental care.
During the first week the bus was here, 41 people were served, while the second week 30 additional individuals had dental care services provided to them by the mobile program. In dollars and cents, that total $59,051 in care.
“Kids can’t learn or succeed if they are in poor health and pain,” said Linda Eck, School Home Liaison for the Huron School District, K-12, and school’s dental bus coordinator. “This program is very needed and very worthwhile, plus with the diversity that we have in Huron right now there is a big need for health and dental care because many of our students come from a background where they haven’t had it.”
While the program is primarily used by school students, anyone between the ages of just a few months old to 20-years-of-age, student or not, is eligible to utilize the dental program, if they have not seen a Huron dentist in the previous two years.
“We are trying to help people who don’t have a dentist,” said Eck. “I’ve been the bus co-ordinator at the school for seven years. It is a big job that takes a lot of effort, but it pays off every year in huge rewards for our students. Dane Hagen is the Dental Bus Coordinator, so there are actually two coordinators. Dane travels with the bus, and I get the kids from the school to get everything lined up.”
The Delta Dental Mobile Program covers many areas across the state year round to help people in need of dental work.
“Huron was my first trip out on the bus last year, so I’ve been doing this for almost exactly a year,” Hagen said. “It’s been going well, I really like it. The hardest part is the travel — we go basically everywhere in South Dakota. We were in Edgemont, which is approximately seven miles from the Wyoming border. We also go all the way to Watertown, Sioux Falls, and everywhere in between.”
Every patient has different needs, but the process starts off with standard routines and evaluates from there how to proceed.
“The first day is the fun day because they do 15-minute check-ups to see what work needs to be done, then the kids get prizes and they’re all excited,” said Eck. “Then they come back to get the work done, which for some of the kids who’ve never had dental care, there may be a lot to get caught up on.”
Delta Dental offers a variety of services, mostly standard and simple procedures, however some extensive work can be done in certain cases, such as if a patient is in a lot of pain.  
“Each kid will get a professional cleaning and any restorative work, such as fillings or pullings, that needs to be done before the week is over,” Eck explained. “A senior high boy actually had two wisdom teeth pulled this week.”
Hagen explained, “Pretty much most of the high school kids we saw this week were new patients who hadn’t seen a dentist for a long time, if ever.”
“That’s where we really see the difference. The kids who started seven years ago come back now and they have been taking care of their teeth,” Eck added. “We bring in a bunch of new patients and do heavy work until they get established with a local dentist.”
United Way Heartland Region has offered financial assistance and support to the Delta Dental Mobile Program so the opportunity for individuals in the community to receive dental care can continue.
United Way Executive Director Rhonda Kludt said, “United Way Heartland Region is proud to partner with the 211 Helpline, Huron Kiwanis Club and the Huron Public School District to provide dental services to so many children year after year. The return on the investment is incredible with thousands of dollars of dental work being provided each year to children who have never seen a dentist. Because the children also receive information pertaining to good dental hygiene practices they are more likely to take better care of their teeth. The volunteer and support services provided by the Kiwanis Club, the work done by the school district and 211, plus financial support from United Way is evidence of what can happen when many come together for a common cause.”
“Thank you to the United Way for funding the bus to come to Huron,” said Eck. “Also thank you to the Kiwanis Club, they provide a volunteer, Gayle Bussel, who comes the first week to help us with the scheduling.”
The dental bus comes to Huron for its annual stop each spring. This year the bus set up at the Vocational School building, which has been beneficial as students are able to walk from the neighboring schools.
“The Vocational building has just worked great for it because the high school and middle school kids can walk over,” Eck explained. “So that just leaves us to transport the other three schools, so being able to cut down on transport is great.”
Transport is provided to students at Buchanan, Madison and Washington Centers by Eck, who drives out to pick up the students, brings them to their appointment and back to class when their session is over. Parents are welcome to attend their child’s appointments if they want to.
“I love my job because I get to make really positive differences in these kid’s lives,” Eck said. “Plus I have been able to learn things about different cultures that I never would have if I hadn’t done this, which is a big eye opener.”  
Applications start one month before the dental bus arrives, plus grade and middle school students are sent home with all of the information regarding the program, during the application period.
“Delta Dental is a great opportunity that we can have come to our town. The big thing is we can’t have successful students if they’re not healthy, that’s what it’s all about,” Eck said. “I really want the community to know that the dental bus is open to anyone in our community who meets the requirements.”
For more information on the program, visit

Photos by Angelina Della Rocco/Plainsman
Two of the technicians in the Delta Dental Bus perform a procedure on a student in the bus last week This free service to area youth completed its 10th year of providing dental work this week. On the left is the distinctive Delta Dental Bus.

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