PPHD’s Dental Health Program Successfully Completes 5-Year Challenge Grant with Nebraska Community Foundation – KCSR / KBPY


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PPHD dental hygienists and school nurses in attendance: Marie Parker, Sierra Frickey, Kendra Lauruhn, Heidi Merrihew

The Panhandle Public Health District's dental health program, Keep Teeth Strong, launched in 2017 and is funded by a Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) grant from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services' Division of Oral Health and Dentistry. When the grant ended just five years ago, PPHD received an exciting opportunity from an anonymous fund through the Nebraska Community Foundation, which provided a 5-year challenge grant to continue serving the Panhandle Children provide much needed preventive dental services.

During a celebration at the Gering Civic Center on Thursday, May 9, PPHD dental hygienist Kendra Lauruhn proudly announced that with the help of local donors, they have surpassed this goal:

  • Panhandle Cooperative Innovation Fund
  • Thomas D. Buckley Trust Fund
  • George H. and Alta Spencer Thompson Foundation
  • Fred Lockwood Foundation
  • Ann and David Doe Charitable Foundation
  • Quaiwe Bay State Foundation
  • Niu Village Health Foundation
  • Snow-Redfern Foundation
  • Eleanor R. Gardner Memorial Foundation
  • Individual donations – Julie Brock, Amber Brock, Cathy Lauruhn, Jim Gustafson
  • wiobraska donor
  • Mars Wrigley Foundation Healthy Smiles Grant Program
  • Flisbach Family Foundation
  • United Way of Western Nebraska
  • medical foundation
  • Health Resources and Services Administration – Oral Health Extension
  • kimball area foundation
  • first national bank
  • CAPWN Dental Clinic Partners
  • Parent donation

Lauruhn shared the impact it has had on area children and families, “We currently serve 33 public and private schools, 14 Head Start locations, and 3 private preschools. We offer the program to all schools that do not already have one and currently 98% of schools have committed to developing a dental health plan for the next school year.

Over the past five years, the program has provided:

  • 21,088 dental exams, which are important because they can detect early signs of dental disease and determine how urgently parents need to get their children to the dentist.
  • 16,881 Fluoride treatments help keep teeth strong and prevent cavities.
  • 4,455 Dental sealants are applied to the back molars to prevent cavities from developing in their sockets.
  • 178 dental health demonstrations that teach kids why teeth are important, how to brush, how parents can help, how to choose healthy foods, and what it's like to go to the dentist.

Lauroun praised the importance of school nurses, saying, “They send and collect dental forms, work with school administration and staff to schedule, and round up the kids. I couldn’t do what I do without them. School nurses care most about the health of their students. They see kids coming into the office with injured teeth, and they take dental health programs seriously. To all of you school nurses here today, thank you for your advocacy and advocacy for dental health programs.

Recipient of Nebraska DHHS Oral Health and Dentistry Awards: Kim Engel, Kendra Lauruhn, Dr. Charles Craft

Dr. Charles Craft, director of the Nebraska DHHS Office of Oral Health and Dentistry, attended the celebration and shared how much of an impact this program has had on rural areas.

“For over 15 years, public health dental hygienists like PPHD's Kendra Lauruhn have made a significant positive impact in providing essential oral health services to underserved populations. This program and its outstanding dental staff are part of our hope for Nebraska Every community in California can one day achieve a shining example of improving the oral health of future generations of Nebraskans,” said Dr. Craft.

He added, “From 2017 to 2019, this unique dental workforce provided an average of more than 100,000 dental services annually. The most recent Nebraska Early Childhood Oral Health Survey report shows that dental experience rates for third-grade children across the state range from The gap between urban and rural children in dental diseases has narrowed significantly.

To subscribe to PPHD's newsletters, click here or visit www.pphd.ne.gov. The Panhandle Public Health District is working together to improve the health, safety and quality of life for all who live, learn, work and play in the Panhandle. Our vision is to be a healthier, safer Panhandle community. Please visit our website at www.pphd.ne.gov.



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