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Dental Health Care for Rural Communities in South Dakota

Smiles for Miles Dental Health Care Program for Rural Children

In some cases, access to dental care may get overlooked for rural communities or for those who are uninsured. The cost alone of seeing a dentist can turn low-income individuals and families away.

Thankfully, South Dakota residents have Horizon Health Care clinics with locations in rural communities throughout the state. Eight dental clinic locations are consciously placed in high-need communities, including Faith, Martin, Yankton, Alcester, De Smet, Howard, Plankinton, and Wessington Springs.

South Dakota children in rural locations especially experience limited access to dental care and education on proper dental hygiene.

Limited Access to Dental Care for Rural Children

Based on the 2018 Children’s Oral Health Statistics report, 50% of South Dakota children ages 2 through 5-years-old have never seen a dentist. Additionally, about 20.5% of children in the same age range have experienced untreated tooth decay.

Cavities are one of the most common childhood diseases in our state. In fact, over 40% of children get cavities by the time they reach Kindergarten.

Both cavities and tooth decay are 100% preventable. Horizon Health Care recommends that a child sees a dentist when their first tooth appears, or by their 1st birthday. To help spread awareness, Horizon Health Care initiated the Smiles For Miles program.

Smiles For Miles: Affordable Dental Care for Kids

In 2018, Horizon piloted a children’s oral health campaign, “Smiles for Miles”, that focused on bringing children ages 0-5 into the dental clinic for a free preventative exam and cleaning. The campaign has now been established as an annual program that is held during October each year.

During Giving Tuesday in 2018, Horizon Health Care raised $17,624 to fund free dental exams, cleanings, and fluoride treatments for kids. The donations paid off in a big way. Horizon Health Care has seen over 400 children for free at their 8 rurally-located dental locations since Smiles for Miles started in 2018.

The need for support is in the numbers. Horizon Health Care provides medical health services to rurally located individuals and families. Of the 3,047 medical patients ages 0-5, 60% of them have not seen a dentist at all.

This year’s Smiles For Miles Program is currently accepting donations to make an impact on the lives of South Dakota kids in need of dental care. The amount of $184,035 is needed to impact 50% of Horizon Health Care’s children who are not receiving dental care.

Supporting a smile is worthwhile. This Giving Tuesday on December 3, 2019, we invite you to make a donation to Smiles For Miles at horizonhealthfoundation.com/smiles.

Horizon serves the health care and dental needs of South Dakotans throughout its 22 medical or dental clinic locations in rural communities. Individuals or families without insurance also have an opportunity to participate in a Sliding Fee Program for reduced rates on dentist services based on need.

Make a donation today or schedule an appointment with a Horizon Health Care clinic near you.

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