Community Connector Helps Older Iowans Smile
When you listen to RaeAnn Herrick talk about her role as program coordinator with the I-Smile Silver program, you can’t imagine her in any other career. However, she only started her position since the program’s inception in December 2014. I-Smile Silver, funded by a Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation grant, is a pilot program based in Lee, Scott and Van Buren counties in Iowa.
Modeled on the I-Smile program for children in the state of Iowa, I-Smile Silver works to create local systems to improve the ability of Iowans over age 60 to prevent dental disease, to access oral health care and to maintain overall health. The target population includes residents of nursing facilities, clients of the Medicaid Elderly Waiver program and those receiving home and community-based services.
After a career in retail, Herrick attended and graduated from dental hygiene school and worked as a dental hygienist. When the Iowa Department of Public Health began the I-Smile Silver pilot program in Lee and Scott counties in December 2014 (and expanded to Van Buren County in 2016), Lee County Health Department hired Herrick as the program coordinator for their area. Since then, she created a network of connections to bridge the gap in education and access to dental care for older Iowans in Lee and Van Buren Counties.
“Every day I try to assist patients, both one-on-one and through health care provider partners, to better understand the importance of preventive dental care,” Herrick said. “Many are under the assumption that it’s too late to take care of their teeth due to dentures, or have trouble with transportation to dental appointments and some even get overwhelmed just figuring out what toothbrush or toothpaste to purchase. I-Smile Silver helps to reduce those barriers to care.”
When the pilot program began, Herrick needed to coordinate with local organizations, businesses, and the health care community to create connections and develop a network to connect older Iowans with dental care. She distributes dental hygiene aids, develops referral systems with dentists, trains nursing facility staff and direct care workers about dental health and provides care coordination for patients.
“The success of I-Smile Silver in Lee, Scott and Van Buren counties is a perfect example of what can happen when community resources focus on a specific cause,” said Jeff Russell, president of the Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation. “With more than 120 diseases that can be detected in early stages through regular dental care, it’s worth the time and effort to be proactive and receive regular dental care, especially in our underserved and aging populations.”
I-Smile Silver is supported by the Lifelong Smiles Coalition, administered through the Iowa Department of Public Health and funded by the Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation.
About Delta Dental of Iowa
Delta Dental of Iowa is the largest and most experienced provider of dental benefits in the state. As a not-for-profit insurance company, Delta Dental of Iowa invests in oral health and wellness projects through the Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation that focus on access to care, prevention, education and research. Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation’s mission is to support and improve the oral health of Iowans.
Delta Dental of Iowa is a member of the Delta Dental Plans Association, the leading national network of independent dental service corporations. The Delta Dental member companies provide dental benefits to more than 70 million Americans in more than 120,000 employee groups throughout the country. For more information, visit our website at www.deltadentalia.com.