Federal grant addresses sparse dental care in rural counties

The goal is to get more dental care workers in rural Nevada.
Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 3:30 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Most of us don’t relish a trip to the dentist. But imagine having no option at all or worse having to travel more than 100 miles for a check-up or emergency.

That’s the reality for those living in rural parts of Nevada.

“For context, we have 70% of Nevadans who live in a federal dental health professional shortage area,” says Antonina Capurro DMD, Nevada Medicaid Deputy Director.

Recently Dr. Capurro her staff and others in the dental community received outstanding news from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

A grant application they had all worked so hard on, was approved. The 1.6-million-dollar HRSA grant hopes to address the lack of dental care by first training high school students to become dental assistants after taking courses for two years.

“To train them in dental assisting so we will be appropriating the educational component either in person or virtually,” says Dr. Capurro. “We are going to be as flexible as possible to make sure the students are successful,” she says.

Dr. Capurro says it’s hoped the students will stay in Nevada--better yet continue their education to become a dental hygienists or even a dentist and practice in a rural community.

Perhaps in Tonopah. The grant money is also going to build a dental facility next to the hospital in Tonopah so that residents will have dental care in their community---something that doesn’t exist now.

Also with the grant, school nurses in Washoe, and later Clark County will be trained to look it students’ mouths, apply fluoride treatment, and even help during a dental emergency at school.

High school students approximately 15 from Elko County will be the first to participate in the dental assistant program. That will be followed by high school students in Churchill County and then White Pine County.

They will be working with rural dentists’ offices for so-called internships. Money from the grant will help with food, travel lodging, and compensate the offices for their time.

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