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Grant to help Neb. counties with dentist shortages

Dentist patient

Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services says a grant could help them reduce dentist shortages in over half of the state’s 93 counties.

DHHS said the shortage is impacting more than 600,000 rural residents including over 150,000 children, age 0 – 18 years, and over 80,000 older adults, many with neglected dental issues and limited access to care.

The Nebraska Teeth Forever Program is focusing on populations with the greatest need as identified in the 2016 Nebraska State Oral Health Assessment Report.

“Nebraska is in the unique position to build additional workforce opportunities for dental hygienists in our shortage areas,” said Dr. Tom Williams, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Public Health for DHHS. “We are proud to offer preventive dental services to more Nebraskans and help them live better lives.”

The program has received a federal workforce development grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration of $500,000 a year for two years.

DHHS said the money will go towards developing oral health personnel, providing preventive services and improving the dental status of underserved rural community populations. A portion of the grant dollars will go towards purchasing seven portable dental hygiene units to provide preventive dental services to young students and residents of assisted living and long-term care facilities in dental shortage areas.

Nebraska was one of only 10 states to receive the grant.

DHHS said the grant will allow the Office of Oral Health to expand preventive dental services to cover 65 of the 93 counties (70 percent) in Nebraska by partnering with seven local health departments including:

  • Panhandle Public Health Department
  • Central District Health Department
  • Two Rivers Public Health Department
  • North Central District Health Department
  • Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Department
  • Southeast District Health Department
  • Four Corners Health Department

“This partnership made it possible for our health department to utilize public health authorized dental hygienists and community health workers in the area,” said Gina Uhing, Health Director of Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Department. “These hygienists are working within our communities to provide much-needed preventative oral health services for both children and elderly. Already, we’ve reached over 400 children and adults with preventative education. We are looking forward to providing essential oral health services like screenings, fluoride varnish, sealants and cleanings.”

DHHS said they’re working with the UNMC College of Dentistry, Creighton School of Dentistry and UNMC College of Public Health to make it happen.

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