Sawtooth Mountain Clinic’s Oral Health Task Force: Pilot Project Could Potentially Expand Oral Health Program to Seniors

Sawtooth Mountain Clinic’s Oral Health Task Force: Pilot Project Could Potentially Expand Oral Health Program to Seniors

August 18, 2021 – The Oral Health Task Force, a program of the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic has been working for the last 10 years to ensure that every child, youth under age 26 and expectant mothers in Cook County and Grand Portage has access to oral health care, regardless of ability to pay. Since the program’s inception in 2012, the incidence of cavities in Cook County’s children has been cut in half.

“Over the years we’ve often heard that many of our seniors have not been able to access oral health care due to financial or other barriers,” said Paul Nelson, Chair – Oral Health Task Force. “Until now, we have not had the resources to expand our care from children to our seniors. We are excited to announce that we are now in position to start a pilot project to analyze expanding our program to seniors. We aim to determine the extent of oral health needs among our seniors locally and hopefully then be able to offer some form of financial assistance for those who need to see the dentist.”

The first step towards expanding the program to seniors is to first identify the extent of needs and then analyze the cost to treat these oral health challenges. Once this data is collected, financial assistance, similar to how the Oral Health Task Force subsidizes children’s care, could be developed. The hope is that with the help of grantors, it can be as generous as the aid available to children.

“Hopefully, we may be able to then expand into a continuing program for all seniors, just as we have been doing for children,” said Nelson. “Our current program grantors are very interested in our efforts and pleased with the success of our youth program, so it is our hope that we will have financial support to fully develop and expand the program to seniors.”

The pilot project will begin with a free Oral Exam Day at The Hub in Grand Marais for anyone age 65 and over. A simple oral check-up along with a free fluoride treatment to those who wish to receive it will be provided. During the exam, qualified oral health professionals will be able to tell each participant whether they have oral health issues and whether they should seek dental care.

Once exams have been completed, an estimate of the cost to fix those problems will be determined and we hope to be able to offer some level of financial assistance to see the dentist.

Details of date and time and registration instructions for the free Oral Exam Day clinic will be announced soon through local media and health partners. Watch for more information.


The Oral Health Task Force began in 2012 with the North Shore Health Care Foundation out of concern for the health of local children. The incubator program grew significantly over the years treating all kids through regular check-ups in schools and daycares and has since helped over 1000 children and youth with access to dental care. The program found its permanent home with the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic in August of 2020. The Oral Health Task Force is led by a multi-agency committee of community representatives including Cook County Public Health & Human Services, Grand Marais Family Dentistry, Grand Portage Health Services, the North Shore Health Care Foundation, Sawtooth Mountain Clinic, and a parent representative.



Paul Nelson, Chair – Oral Health Task Force, 218-370-0656 or

Erin Watson, Chief Operation Officer/HR Director – Sawtooth Mountain Clinic (218) 387-2330 ext. 153 or

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