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News Release: Successful Grant Project to Continue as Part of Mobile Program

For immediate release: Monday, January 11, 2016
For more information: Mike Mueller,, 605-224-7345

Delta Dental to Continue Successful Grant Project as Part of Company’s Mobile Program

Pierre, SD – A special three-year project to improve children’s oral health on South Dakota’s Native American reservations showed significant success.  Initially funded with federal grant money, Delta Dental of South Dakota is continuing the program on an ongoing basis as a new part of its mobile program.

“Our Circle of Smiles program increased kids’ access to dental care and showed preventive care can help reduce costs,” said Scott Jones, CEO of Delta Dental of South Dakota. “When that makes kids’ lives better, it’s that much more important to do. We can’t just quit when the grant ends.”

Funded by a $3.3 million grant from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Delta Dental worked with the nine Tribes in South Dakota to hire and place oral health staff on the reservations between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2015.

Jones said the primary goal of the program was to provide preventive care and education to children through age 9 before more painful problems and costly restorative care was needed.  “Program staff provided care to 7,810 patients at 168 clinic locations and special events in schools, Head Start facilities, and other community locations,” he said.

Dental hygienists provided cleanings, fluoride varnishes and applied dental sealants.  Community oral health coordinators also provided education and ongoing contact to encourage good health habits and dental visits.  All patients were referred to a dentist; those needing restorative care like fillings were provided assistance to get to the appointment.

An analysis of claims data showed the program had notable impact in improving access to oral health care and reducing the average dental care costs per patient.

The percentage of children through age 9 who’d had a dental visit increased 64% during the program.  The percentage who’d had a cleaning or fluoride varnish increased more than 75%, and the percentage who’d had dental sealants doubled. Over the same period, the average dental care costs per child decreased by 27%.

Delta Dental is continuing the work of the program and funding it by increasing funds to its charitable foundation.  The effort will now become part of the company’s ongoing mobile program that has two mobile dental trucks that provide care to underserved kids across the state.

The combination of the programs creates efficiencies in delivery of services as the reservation-based staff will support mobile truck clinics in their region.  No longer tied to the parameters of the original grant, reservation-based staff will also expand care to kids beyond age 9.

“We’re grateful we had the opportunity to establish a successful program and fortunate enough to continue the work,” Jones said.  “When a child’s in pain because something in their mouth hurts, it means they may miss school or can’t concentrate in class.  And they may not eat well, or get enough sleep.  Nearly all of that pain is preventable with brushing, flossing, and regular preventive dental care.”

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