A dental program begun by the Jefferson County Public Health Service has been so successful that it will be implemented in Lewis, Oswego and St. Lawrence counties as well.
Keep the North Country Smiling is a pilot program started in March 2014. Its purpose is to provide more fluoride varnishing for children through primary care, increase tooth brushing in youngsters, increase and maintain community water fluoridation, and provide public outreach and education.
The Jefferson County Public Health Service partnered with health care providers to carry out the program’s goals. These included the North Country Family Health Center, which offers full dental care at its Watertown facility and provides free preventive care and cleaning to schools in five districts in both Jefferson and Lewis counties.
Given the importance of dental care to all families, expanding the program to Lewis, Oswego and St. Lawrence counties is a significant step.
Programs like this ensure low-income families have the access they need to quality dental care. The North Country Family Health Center offers free dental care to people mired in poverty. The costs of proper care can be incredibly high, so starting the Keep the North Country Smiling initiative in other counties will help alleviate this concern for those from poorer communities.
“While Medicaid covers dental and fluoride varnish treatments, many individuals and families have private insurance plans that don’t cover dental or fluoride varnishes,” according to a story published Sept. 27 in the Watertown Daily Times. “Without individual dental plans through Medicaid to supplement private insurance, this gap in coverage has been one of the biggest hurdles for the initiative. Several local clinics have begun billing on a sliding scale when possible.”
Stephen A. Jennings, public health planner for the Jefferson County Public Health Service and a member of the Watertown City Council, said the next steps to expanding the program include developing a work plan, identifying funding, increasing community water fluoridation, measuring the program’s impact and providing those in need with access to good dental care.
It’s good that this program has taken root in Jefferson County and is spreading the benefits of better oral health. The work needs to continue in surrounding counties to make sure this initiative reaches its full potential by being offered to as many people as possible.