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Grants to help health departments launch mobile dental hygiene programs

Thousands of Kentucky children don’t see a dentist regularly

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Aug. 6, 2014) — Gov. Steve Beshear today announced five local health departments are set to launch mobile dental hygiene programs after receiving grant awards from the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) to increase access and improve oral health standards in their communities.

FLBB_BeamBrush02The grants, $160,000 one-year awards, have been distributed to the local health departments in Jessamine County, Lawrence County and Pike County, as well as the Lincoln Trail District Health Department, which serves Hardin, Larue, Marion, Meade, Nelson and Washington counties, and the Purchase District Health Department, which serves Ballard, Carlisle, Fulton, Hickman and McCracken counties, to fund the implementation of the public health dental hygiene programs.

Jessamine and Lawrence counties will use funds to serve neighboring Mercer and Martin counties

The funding will cover a full-time dental hygienist and assistant; portable dental equipment to set up two treatment areas; a transport vehicle and transportation costs. Dental supplies are also covered by the grant.

“The lack of access to adequate dental care is a serious problem across the nation, but it’s particularly bad in Kentucky,” Beshear said. “Hundreds of thousands of children in this state don’t see a dentist regularly and many not at all. The vast majority of both childhood and adult dental problems could be avoided through routine dental care and other preventive efforts – which is exactly what this program provides. This is a great step forward.

Regulations for public health hygienists were adopted in 2012 to promote the deployment of public health hygiene services in Kentucky. Three health departments – Madison County, the Barren River District, and the Northern Kentucky District – currently have dental hygiene programs in place.

Beshear’s recommendation of $3.3 million in additional funding for new oral health hygiene teams was enacted in the budget by the 2014 General Assembly – $1.2 million in FY 15 and $2.1 million in FY 16 from the General Fund. The funding will cover two years of grant awards, as well as additional enhancements to the state oral health program.

“Placing public health dental hygienists in the community where they can provide front line support and services to our young people is a great leap forward in terms of not only being able to assess problems – but provide on-site cleanings and dental care,” said Julie McKee, DMD, state dental director. “We commend Gov. Beshear and the members of the General Assembly for making oral health a priority and recognizing its importance to our overall health and well-being.

The hygiene team will visit local schools to provide assessments, age-appropriate cleaning services, fluoride varnishes and dental sealants on permanent teeth for children at the beginning of the school year. They can also serve local day care centers and Head Start programs. Hygienists will work with parents to facilitate any needed follow-up care with a local dentist.

The grant cycle is one school year. An additional round of grants will be awarded in year two that will fund up to five more health departments with similar programs.