Health Department Offering Free Dental Screening for Children

By Beacon Staff

Going to the dentist isn’t typically anyone’s idea of fun. For kids, it can be a scary experience, and for parents, it can be an expensive one. But if there’s anyone who can make a trip to the dentist better, it’s Santa Claus.

On Dec. 13, the Flathead City-County Health Department will host its third-annual free dental screening for children ages 2 through 18. The event runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. From 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., the big man in red will be there to take pictures with families.

The free screenings are compliments of a grant from the Dennis Washington Foundation, according to health officer Joe Russell. Last year, a dental team screened 40 kids, which Russell said is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the amount of children in the valley who need proper dental care.

The screening includes an oral dental exam, preventative fluoride and a healthy-smile goody bag. Linda Bodick, who works at the health department, said the day doesn’t include any dental treatment, but the dental clinic works on a sliding fee scale and most of the clients would qualify with Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Bodick was the driving force behind getting all of the agencies within the health department involved on dental screening day, Russell said. This year, there will be tables set up to inform parents about other programs available to them, including the WIC food program and help with helmets and car seats.

Dec. 13 is also a walk-in day for the WIC program, and the community health services will be open for immunizations, Bodick said.

“We’ve grown so much (at the health center) and I think people don’t always know what’s available,” Bodick said.

Bringing in Santa gives parents extra motivation to visit the health department, Russell said.

“It gets kids jazzed up and we want to be part of that, too,” he said.

Along with telling Santa what they would like for Christmas, the kids and their families can get a photo with him, free of charge. There will be a physical photo, Russell said, as well as a CD with digital copies. Families are also encouraged to bring in their own cameras to capture the moment.

Bodick also hopes that once the parents bring their kids in for a dental screening, they too can get signed up to take care of their teeth. Dental health is connected to many health care issues, Russell noted, and is important to maintain.

The dental clinic is hoping for many more than 40 kids this year, both Bodick and Russell said, and will keep working past 4 p.m. if the line persists.

“They are geared up for as many as they can do,” Bodick said.

The free dental screening takes place Dec. 13 at the Flathead County Health Center dental clinic, located at 1035 First Ave. W, in Kalispell. For more information, call 406-751-8221 or visit www.flathead.mt.gov/health.

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