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MASON CITY, Iowa – Iowa public health officials have received a $1.8 million federal grant to help ensure children and some adults get adequate dental care.
Registered nurse, Kellie Cooper has many of her young patients hop into a chair for a quick dental checkup. If they’re nervous, she tells them they’re looking for something important.
Cooper said, “We wanna check for sugar bugs, make sure there’s no sugar bugs on your teeth that can turn them black.”
Kellie performs some of these checkups through the I-Smile dental home initiative – a program that helps Iowa children and their parents connect with local dentists for evaluation and treatment.
I-Smile Program Coordinator, Peggy Funk said, “We work with dentists and we work with children and so get the to see the dentist when they need to. The goal of I-Smile is for every child to have a dental home.”
And that now the initiatives is getting a nearly $2 million boost, local coordinator Peggy Funk’s smile is turning into a mega-watt grin.
Funk said, “I think it’s fantastic, because I know what we will try to do is enhance the Medicaid benefits for dentists. They don’t get reimbursed really well and I don’t think they get even 50% of their costs.”
Peggy says she’d also like to see more money go toward dental education
She said, “Starting from when the baby is first born, wiping their gums, brushing their teeth and we always get so excited when our kids can brush their own teeth, but really we should be helping then till they’re 8 or 9 years old.”
Kellie says a healthy mouth goes far beyond just having a good-looking smile.
She said, “It can make them have extreme confidence – smiling with front teeth, and some kids that might not have front teeth because of decay, that might lower self-esteem.”
And for her, helping young children and even some adults get there is enough to make her beam from ear to ear.
“It’s a great feeling that we can help them find a dentist, get them in to see a dentist and get these teeth taken care of and just to have a smile on their face.”