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Dental clinic aims for close-to-home care

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Ian Gronau | November 24, 2013

TOWN OF WALWORTH — They say no man is an island, and the same can be said of organizations. An effort, no matter how well intended, may never reach its true potential while operating in a vacuum.

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In economically threadbare times such as these, organizations aiming to make a difference can get more mileage by pooling their resources, and the new dental clinic at Inspiration Ministries slated to open in early December is a great example of this concept at work.

It's no secret to Walworth County Department of Health and Human Services Health Officer Janis Ellefsen or Inspiration Ministries President Robin Knoll that there is a significant need for affordable dental care targeted at the low income and underserved population of the county. DHHS has been combating the issue with its Seal-A-Smile program since 2010.

“The program is funded through Delta Dental and the Wisconsin Children's Health Alliance, and it's for second- and fifth-graders,” Ellefsen said. “We have a staff of five part-time dental hygienists who go into the schools, with parental permission, and they do a quick exam of the kids' teeth and provide fluoride treatments and seals on permanently erupted molars.”

The program successfully has brought care to many students in Walworth County who may not have had access to such services otherwise, but Ellefsen noted that while it helps, it sometimes uncovers more problems. 

“Each year we've been able to identify approximately 200 kids who already had untreated dental decay, and so we have to refer them to a dentist for a follow-up,” Ellefsen said. “Most of these kids are on BadgerCare, but there are only a few dentists in Walworth County that accept patients with BadgerCare.

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