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MNHSA Oral Health

Head Start and Early Head Start programs (referred to as Head Start throughout) provide education and health services in the context of the family and community. Good oral health is a key element of Head Start's health services and essential to a child's behavioral, speech, language and overall growth and development. Head Start program performance standards require each program track the provision of oral health care for enrolled children to ensure they receive:

For more information about Head Start's oral health needs and what dentists can do to help check out:

Vision for Oral Health

Dentist Oral health is a vital component of good health, and dental care is a critical element of health care.

Innovative approaches can help low-income, ethnically and racially diverse children and families, including those with disabilities, overcome oral health disparities.

There is a way to broaden oral health services to all those in need through community-based, participatory partnerships and investment from all stakeholders.

Solutions to Head Start oral health problems include effective oral health access, prevention, and treatment strategies, which require:

Innovative Approaches to Oral Health

Here are some of the innovative, model approaches to oral health care for low-income Head Start families in Minnesota.

Dental Health Screening and Fluoride Varnish Application

Dr. Amos Deinard, in partnership with the University of Minnesota, developed a web-based training program that instructs primary care medical providers on how to promote dental health prevention as part of well-child care for high-risk children. Visit the Dental Health Screening and Fluoride Varnish Application at:

Bright Smiles

Boy with Football With initial and sustained funding from the Greater Twin Cities United Way, West Side Community Health Services ("West Side") offers bilingual and bicultural dental health care to children ages 0-5 living in Ramsey and Dakota counties through the Bright Smiles Program. Services include outreach and education to parents about proper oral health practices and preventative care onsite at West Side's medical clinics, La Clínica and East Side Family Clinic. All preventive dental services are offered at no charge to those children 0-5 without insurance. Restorative care can be completed at a discounted rate at West Side's two main dental clinics and onsite at La Clínica. Find out more about the Bright Smiles program at West Side at:

The Early Childhood Dental Network (ECDN)

ECDN is a nine-county, multi-disciplinary collaborative project, and an outgrowth of the 12 Early Childhood Initiative communities in west central Minnesota. The ECDN is designed to increase awareness and education to all children and their caregivers about the importance of oral health. They also work to increase access to dental care, specifically to the 0-5 population on Minnesota Health Care Programs and the uninsured. For more information check us out on the web at: or contact Coordinator Jane Patrick at 218-736-3458.

The Red River Valley Dental Access Project

This project operates an Urgent Care Walk-In Dental Clinic for the low-income that offers immediate relief of dental pain for $20. The clinic is run by 45 volunteer dentists from the area and 1 staff dentist. It runs every Tuesday evening with a sign-up at 4pm and the 1st and 3rd Friday of the month with a sign-up at 11:30am. Patients need to be here at the sign-up time b/c space is limited. The clinic is run at 715 N 11th St, Moorhead, MN 56560. Michelle Berg, Executive Director:

Apple Tree Dental: Collaborating to Improve Dental Health

Apple Tree Dental, a nonprofit founded in 1985, pioneered the "Community Collaborative Practice" model to serve Minnesotan's of all ages and abilities who face physical, financial and geographic barriers to dental care. In addition to hub clinics in the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota, Apple Tree also brings dental care to convenient locations where people live, work or receive other services. A complete mobile dental office is set up inside a partnering community site on a regular schedule that creates a year-round "dental home". Apple Tree's dentists, dental therapists, hygienists and dental assistants collaborate with Head Start staff and others to provide culturally competent dental care including exams, x-rays, cleanings, fluoride, fillings and other needed services. Providing on-site care often costs far less than long distance travel. Making timely preventive and restorative care available means that dental problems are addressed before they turn into costly and traumatic health care problems.

Apple Tree's partnership with Head Start has included state and federal policy initiatives to improve oral health and access to care including the Head Start Teledentistry Project, piloting of Collaborative Practice, and the Oral Healthcare Solutions Project. Find out more at:

Children's Dental Services (CDS)

Girl with Toothbrush Children's Dental Services has been nationally recognized for developing the first Head Start Site-based Dental Services Program in the nation 40 years ago. CDS implements a Teledentistry Program with Head Start partner sites, which eliminates transportation barriers for families, resulting in improved access to care. CDS provides on-site dental services at several Head Start centers across Minnesota and hires bi-lingual staff who reflect the children and families served. Through their years of commitment to Head Start families, CDS has developed a number of best-practices in providing culturally competent, high quality dental services even in cases where the family has no insurance coverage. For more information about Children's Dental Services visit:

Minnesota Oral Health Coalition

A strong oral health coalition can help Minnesota achieve its oral health goals. Coalitions are groups of public and private organizations and individuals that share common strategic interests.

Under its cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Minnesota Oral Health Program provides support for the development of a statewide oral health coalition. More about this emerging coalition at:

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