KEARNEY — Healthy teeth not only make brighter smiles. They’re essential to good health.
That’s why Two Rivers Public Health Department has a LifeSmiles program that provides dental screenings for children from preschool through elementary school. So far, the program has served 600 area children.
Two dental hygienists and an assistant go into HeadStart locations and elementary schools, and, with parental permission, do free screenings and apply sealants and fluoride. They also distribute toothbrushes.
In 2021, Two Rivers dental personnel did 1,643 screenings, applied 884 fluoride treatments and placed 2,011 sealants.
If necessary, they will refer children back to their family dentist or to a local dentist if the family does not have one. Two Rivers then follows the children year after year to keep track of their dental health.
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“We keep track of anything that has changed in this child’s mouth. We can track to see if the sealants and fluoride treatments are making a difference,” Dr. Kate Goodwin, a Kearney dentist and the dental assistant on the Two Rivers board since 2020, said. She practices at the Kearney Dental Clinic with her father Stephen Bush.
“We have a large population for the number of dentists in Kearney area, but many people are not getting the care they need, especially the population on Medicaid,” Goodwin said. “We are happy to fill those gaps. Who doesn’t have a heart for those who are hurting?”
The staff includes three dental hygienists, Kesiah Pulliam, Tami Burkey and Jessica Beisner, dental assistant Sally Heusinkvelt and community health worker Maria Barocio.
Two Rivers depends on grants and private donations to keep the program going. “We are actively seeking donations because the grant requires that the money be matched,” Goodwin said.
Two Rivers also participates in the annual Kearney Area Community Foundation’s Give Where You Live one-day fundraising campaign every December. Two Rivers covers Buffalo, Dawson, Franklin, Gosper, Harlan, Kearney and Phelps counties.