The lack of dental care options for those in need in Rice County led HealthFinders to open a dental clinic in Faribault. Now HealthFinders has launched free dental clinics at Greenvale Park Community School to further extend service to children.

HealthFinders Collaborative started holding free dental clinics at Greenvale Park Community School Jan. 26 and plans on holding another clinic on Tuesday and in March. It’s a way to make the community more aware of its dental services and also a way to decrease barriers for families to get service.

The clinic provides initial assessments and fluoride varnishes for any child under 18 with medical assistance or no dental insurance. Children can schedule appointments or simply walk in with a consent form. The clinic is held after school starting at 3 p.m.

Renae Blome, HealthFinders dental coordinator, conducted the assessments and fluoride varnishes. Blome also referred children for further work to the Faribault HealthFinders Collaborative clinic.

Blome joined HealthFinders in early 2014 as its first-ever dental program coordinator. Blome works with Dr. Jerry Appeldoorn, who joined the collaborative in April 2014.

The dental clinic in Faribault has two chairs now and is open Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

It’s not just children who need dental care, however, as the Faribault clinic has seen more than 1,000 patients in a little more than a year, Blome said.

“Over a year ago when we started the program it was to find out what the need was and how busy we would be,” Blome said. “We’re booked out to July now.”

The HealthFinders dental clinic provides dental care at a reduced cost on a sliding scale basis, which isn’t required if a patient can’t afford the fee. The clinic can also help prevent patients from emergency room visits to District One Hospital for dental pain.

According to the 2014 Rice County Community Health Assessment, in the fall of 2012, District One Hospital had 244 patients in a 10-month span come to the emergency room for dental pain.

HealthFinders saw 60 patients in the first six weeks of opening triage exams in April 2014. Of those 60, 13 were deemed a dental emergency, according to the health assessment.

According to a 2011 federal Medicaid report, while government-managed health care programs pay for emergency room visits for adult enrollees with dental emergencies, coverage of outpatient dentist office treatment varies greatly from state to state, with many receiving no or limited dental care.

Individuals with MnSure are limited in Rice County. HealthFinders is the only office taking adults as well as children. Southern Heights will only see children 12 years and under, Blome said.

The 2013 Rice County Community Health Survey found that one out of four Rice County residents delayed dental care they needed in the past year. Cost was the biggest barrier cited, which included a lack of insurance and an inability to cover out of pocket expenses.

Outside of cost, other barriers like transportation and wait lists at clinics prevent patients from seeking dental care.

“Getting to the dentist is really hard,” HealthFinders Director of Clinical Care Emily Carroll said. “Waiting lists are really hard. Our dental clinic routinely sees people who have never been to the dentist.”

The first clinic drew five children and Blome gave referrals for those children who needed additional service.

As HealthFinders holds more clinics at Greenvale Park Community School, it anticipates more children taking part.

Nick Gerhardt is the Northfield News’ sports editor. You can reach him at 645-1111. Follow him on Twitter @NorthfieldNick.

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