DES MOINES, Iowa — October is National Dental Hygiene Month.

Dental hygienists not only clean our teeth but also educate and help us maintain our oral health.

Cinthia Naranjo was joined by registered dental hygienists Mary Kelly and Jennifer Faux.

They talked about the job of a hygienist, how oral care impacts our overall health and finding dental care.

Dental Care Access:

Finding dental care with Medicaid and Medicare can be difficult. Mary Kelly works in dental public health. She shared clinics that are accepting new patients and insurance; Broadlawns Dental Clinic, Dental Connections and Primary Health (they have offices in Urbandale, Des Moines, Ames and Marshalltown).

I-Smile is a statewide program and managed by the Iowa Department of Public Health. The program allows coordinators to provide community resources, and dental and medical care for students in schools. They provide dental screenings and fluoride, help coordinate dentist appointments, educate students about oral health and more. According to the website, they have 23 coordinators in our state. You find your coordinator here.

Apex Dental hosts a dental day every year called Operation Give Back. The dental office offers free cleanings, fillings and extractions. You can check out their website & Facebook page for their next dental day in 2024.

You can also go to the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services website to find a provider.

Reduced preventative care visits:

There are multiple community colleges across the state that offer reduced dental services for the public. That includes Des Moines Area Community College, Kirkwood, Iowa Central, Indian Hills, Iowa Western and Hawkeye Community college.

Oral cancer check-up:

Dental hygienists also do an oral cancer check-up during a dentist appointment. According to the CDC, HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection and can cause serious health problems including oral cancer. Hygienists oftentimes can catch or notice the signs of the cancer.