Delta Dental van brings smiles

Gray Hughes

The Delta Dental Mobile Program visited the Hill City School District last week.

An annual tradition, the program is sponsored by the Tin City Masonic Lodge #112 and is done at no cost to the kids.

“It’s kind of an access issue for a lot of towns we visit here,” said Dr. Greg Hanson, the dentist providing services to kids. “We’re trying to help people who are either underserved or may not have access to care or can’t afford care. The big thing is we try to help kids who don’t have access to a dentist. It’s kind of a way to keep them healthy and keep them in school and keep them happy.”

The mobile unit provided roughly $30,000 of free dental work this year to the students in Hill City. According to statistics provided by Delta Dental, 53 percent of students that are seen annually (not just in Hill City but across the state of South Dakota) have tooth decay and Delta Dental provides an average of $742 worth of free dental work per child.

The mobile program began in 2004 and has visited 85 communities across South Dakota — including Hill City. To date, the mobile program has treated more than 43,5000 patients with $24 million in dental care.

Each truck travels with a dentist, a hygienist, two dental assistants and a coordinator. It costs approximately $26,000 per week to operate each truck, according to information provided by Delta Dental, and local sponsors — such as Tin City Masonic Lodge — contribute a stipend of typically around $2,500 per week.

Last year, in Hill City the mobile unit served 42 kids and provided $31,355 worth of free dental care. The mobile unit provided 119 x-rays at a cost of $4,922, 306 cleanings at a cost of $14,229, 76 restorative procedures such as cavity filings, crowns and extractions at a cost of $12,204 and placed 190 sealants, according to information provided by Tin City Masonic Lodge #112.

This year, the van saw 41 kids who, Hanson said, have all been super. Hanson, too, said he’s done “a little bit of everything” to the kids who visited the van.

One of the most common procedures Hanson said he’s done is putting in stainless steel crowns — some as young as 6 or 7. Hanson said the kids will need to keep the caps for another five or six years until they get their permanent teeth.

Hanson said he’s trying to prevent pain, discomfort and trying to help kids keep their teeth so they have their permanent teeth without having to have orthodontics to help put things back to where they need to be.

“Overall, we’re just trying to help maintain their health,” he said.

Hanson, who is a retired dentist from Rapid City, has done the mobile program in Hill City two times prior to this time. He said he loves being in the Black Hills, and the community has a nice school.

Ron Rossknecht, a member of Tin City Masonic Lodge #112, said to help bring the mobile program to Hill City, the lodge gets some really good sponsors including First Interstate Bank and Golden West.

Rossknecht said he “just starts making phone calls” to help attract sponsors.

“This is such a good cause, and when I get these nice reports after you guys (Delta Dental) are here that tells how many kids you saw, it has a lot of good statistics, and what I do is I hand that to business owners and friends of mine who are business people here, and I just basically say, ‘Got $100?’” Rossknecht said. “It’s a $2,500 buy-in, and it’s not hard to raise $2,500, especially when you sit there and you have these local businesses and they see that for $2,500 we’re getting $30,000 worth of product. It’s just a no brainer.”

That, he added, is why he really enjoys raising money.

Hanson said providing these services is really fun.

He said, too, that they enjoy coming out here.

“I’ve seen a lot of kids more than one time, so I’ve been able to follow up on some of the things that I’ve done, and I think that’s really the rewarding part for me — making sure they’re being taken care of, and, hopefully, they’re having a healthy, happy life,” he said.

Rossknecht said he thinks the service is great.

Some of these kids, he said, have teeth problems, and when a kid has a tooth problem they really can’t focus on their academics or studies, and sometimes their folks just can’t afford it.

Usually done in November or December, Rossknecht said they hope to bring the mobile unit to Hill City again in January.

Hanson said that’s a good idea because it’ll help kids get a good fresh start to the year with their oral health.

“So you guys (the Tin City Masonic Lodge) have done a good job helping bring this up here, and we’re happy to come up and do it,” Hanson said.

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