Working on those Big Smiles
Cassville students get dental care right on campus
Cassville school district students can get near full access to dental care without missing school.
A program called Big Smiles has been operating at the Cassville school district for the past three years. Bobbi Blankenship, Cassville head nurse, said the program wrapped up seeing students on Friday, but it will be back in April for 6-month check ups.
“They treat every child up to 18 years old every 6 months, whether it be for a check-up or dental work,” she said. “I reached out to them to try to get more services for our school.”
Blankenship looked into what other districts were using to help find new opportunities.
“The program doesn’t cost the students or district anything,” she said. “They will treat everyone, some insurance covers, others can pay out of pocket, but others can fill out a grant form to have the services paid for.”
People can call the school nurse for any questions.
“For the 2020-2021 school year, 382 students have been seen so far,” she said. “At the beginning of the year, a form is sent home to families to tell them about the program.”
Blankenship said one of the greatest benefits to the program is it keeps students in school as much as possible.
“In our area, we have limited resources,” she said. “Often times, to go to the dentist, parents have to take off of work, students miss a whole day of school, and sometimes, they have to travel more than an hour away to make their appointments.
“This program saves 2.1 days, per child treated, of missing school.”
Dr. Kori Rienbolt, Dentist with Big Smiles, said while her office specifically covers Kansas and Missouri, Big Smiles is a national program.
“It is under the umbrella of Smile America Partners,” she said. “They have been practicing mobile dentistry for 24 years, specifically working with school districts.”
Since the program works in the public health service, they see a lot of state health insurances.
“We function just like a dental office,” she said. “However, we accept all insurances.”
This is a big help for those students on state insurance, since it can be difficult to find providers who accept that insurance.
“A lot of private practices don’t accept Medicaid, which makes dental appointments more and more difficult to make,” Rienbolt said. “We try to get patients in and out within an hour, my goal is 30-45 minutes.”
Rienbolt said a majority of the coordination is done by the school nurses.
“They have to be invested in this to make it work,” she said. “We see that investment in Cassville.”
Dental services provided include: complete oral examinations, cleanings, sealants, fluoride treatments, X-rays, fillings and extractions.