Newsroom > DHHS News Release

For Immediate Release
October 12, 2017

CONTACT
Leah Bucco-White, Communications and Legislative Services, 402-471-9356 leah.bucco-white@nebraska.gov

 
DHHS Enhancing Oral Health Workforce
and Improving Preventive Services

 
Note: Sound bites on this topic are available at www.dhhs.ne.gov/audio

Lincoln – Did you know? Over half of the state’s 93 counties have a general dentist shortage, impacting over 600,000 rural residents including over 150,000 children, age 0 – 18 years, and over 80,000 older adults many with neglected dental issues and limited access to care.

The Nebraska Teeth Forever Program within the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of Oral Health and Dentistry focuses on populations with the greatest need as identified in the 2016 Nebraska State Oral Health Assessment Report.

“Nebraska is in the unique position to build additional workforce opportunities for dental hygienists in our shortage areas,” said Dr. Tom Williams, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Public Health for DHHS. “We are proud to offer preventive dental services to more Nebraskans and help them live better lives.”

A federal workforce development grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration of $500,000 a year for two years is helping the Nebraska Teeth Forever Program develop oral health personnel, provide preventive services and improve the dental status of underserved rural community populations. Nebraska was one of only 10 states to receive the grant.

The grant will allow the Office of Oral Health to expand preventive dental services to cover 65 of the 93 counties (70 percent) in Nebraska by partnering with seven local health departments including:

  • Panhandle Public Health Department
  • Central District Health Department
  • Two Rivers Public Health Department
  • North Central District Health Department
  • Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Department
  • Southeast District Health Department
  • Four Corners Health Department

“This partnership made it possible for our health department to utilize public health authorized dental hygienists and community health workers in the area,” said Gina Uhing, Health Director of Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Department. “These hygienists are working within our communities to provide much-needed preventative oral health services for both children and elderly. Already, we’ve reached over 400 children and adults with preventative education. We are looking forward to providing essential oral health services like screenings, fluoride varnish, sealants and cleanings.”

A portion of the grant dollars will go towards purchasing seven portable dental hygiene units to provide preventive dental services to young students and residents of assisted living and long-term care facilities in dental shortage areas.

The Office of Oral Health is collaborating with the UNMC College of Dentistry, Creighton School of Dentistry and UNMC College of Public Health to coordinate training for the public health authorized dental hygienists and community health workers. Subject matter experts will provide training in the fields of dental screenings, oral health education, pediatric and geriatric preventive services, proper dental referrals, community health promotion and the use of portable hygiene equipment.

Moving forward, the Nebraska Teeth Forever Program will help local public health departments develop oral health staff and purchase equipment with preventive services due to start this fall. Implementation of the program will include providing fluoride varnish to young children age 0-5, placing dental sealants on students ages 6 to 12 and offering cleanings to older adults ages 65+.

The 2016 Nebraska State Oral Health Assessment Report is available online at http://dhhs.ne.gov/publichealth/OralHealth/Pages/OOHDHome.aspx.

About Nebraska Teeth Forever Program and Department of Health and Human Services: The Nebraska Teeth Forever Program is managed by the Office of Oral Health and Dentistry which is part of the Division of Public Health in the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Keep up-to-date with what’s happening at the Department by connecting with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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