Future Smiles - Northern Nevada
We all know how important it is to see a dentist. However, getting in for a teeth cleaning can be a challenge for many kids living out in rural Nevada. So one woman is bringing oral health care to them. Meet the dental hygienist behind Future Smiles - Northern Nevada in Health Watch.
Consider it like a dentist's office - on wheels. "It's a lot of traveling. We cover about 170-miles." Lancette VanGuilder and her team set up shop at schools all over northern Nevada - mostly in rural towns. “This is the teacher's break room,” she shows us when we met her at Natchez Elementary School in Wadsworth. “We've been in storage closets, gymnasiums. We'll take whatever space the school will give us,” she smiles. Even in small spaces, Lancette is doing big things for kids who need it most. "We have provided oral health education to a little over 3,000 students."
Lancette started Future Smiles - Northern Nevada several months ago. Students like Mataycee Brown look forward to her visits. “To keep my teeth clean," Mataycee says. She works hard at home to keep her teeth healthy, but during this visit, Lancette is helping by sealing some molars. “About 20 seconds and you're all done," she explains as she waits for the sealant to harden. Not all the little patients are as easy, however. Along with providing sealant and fluoride varnish, Lancette also screens for oral health. Unfortunately, she sees more dental disease than she ever expected. So she also makes referrals for children with urgent dental needs. “Cavities, early signs of gum disease, we've even seen lesions on little kids throats that we've recommended their physicians take care of."
Lancette has a passion for these communities. She, too, grew up in small towns. "My whole life I've seen such a need for rural communities. There are a lot of barriers for getting healthcare." Like a shortage of dental health providers, which is why Lancette caters to areas like Lyon County - considered to have a 100% dental professional shortage. Lancette makes her routine visits at no cost to the patient or taxpayers. She has received generous grant -funding from the Pennington Foundation, the Wynn Foundation and the American Dental Hygienists' Association. Area dentists like Dr. John Bocchi of Sierra Smiles also help support her efforts. Thanks to these gifts and future donations, Lancette hopes to grow Future Smiles – Northern Nevada even more. "We started with a target of six schools and now more schools are reaching out to us asking if we can come. So, the program has already grown beyond what we expected in just the first six months."
Future Smiles is always in need of gloves, masks and monetary donations. If you would like to make a donation, email Lancette@futuresmiles.net or call (775) 224-4323.