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Smiles United program resumes services on Iron Range

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CHISHOLM, MN -- United Way and Children's Dental Services' program "Smiles United" was one of many school-based preventative health programs impacted by COVID-19.

The program, which provides dental services from cleanings to fillings, was put on hold in March when more than 10 schools they serve transitioned to remote learning.

"We travel around the schools typically during the school year. We see those kids that maybe the normal dental office wouldn't see based on insurance," dental hygenist Heather Glockle said.

But at the start of the week dental staff resumed services for the three counties they serve at the United Way office in Chisholm.

Many changes came with the re-opening.

"The standard sterilization procedure, we have to have patients wait outside. We can't more than two people, a child and a guardian in with them," said Glockle.

Other changes include staff wearing extra personal protective gear.

"We're head to toe in gowns, face shields, and N-95 masks and things like that," added Glockle.

In 2019, the program serviced 1,600 children. This year, Children's Dental Services made the decision to expand the age range of patients.

As the pandemic continues, officials hope more people can use the serivces.

"From birth to age 100+, so we're able to provide that service, Children's Dental Service is able to provide that care to people of all ages in our service territory," Katy Lofquist from United Way said.

Officials say as unpredictable as COVID-19 can be, they're grateful they can provide a service when it's needed most.

"Something new pops up because of COVID. But we've been really glad that a lot of the surprises have been positive becuase we get so much support from the community members and our partners," said Lofquist.

For more information on "Smiles United," click here.

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Emma Quinn

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