North Shore Health Care Foundation
Our mission is to benefit health care for those who live, work and visit in Cook County
Oral Health

Providing oral health care to the children of Cook County
and the Grand Portage Reservation


What is the Oral Health Task Force?

The task force is a community effort organized by the North Shore Health Care Foundation to address gaps in preventative dental health care for our children.  Sponsered by the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic, it includes our school nurses, Grand Marais Family Dentistry, Cook County Public Health and Human Services, and the Grand Portage  Reservation Health Service.

What are Our Goals?

To provide dental care to the children of Cook County and the Grand Portage Reservation from 18 months to young adults 26 years of age.

To make dental screenings, exams, and care more available.

To educate families on the importance of early preventive care and financial programs that makes dental care more affordable.


Why is Dental Care so important?

Having healthy teeth is an integral part of children's overall health and well-being.  Early preventive care such as screenings and sealants can keep teeth healthy and reduce the need for expensive restorative care later.  Although tooth decay is almost completely preventable, it is the most common childhood disease.  Studies show links between ear and sinus infections, weakened immune systems, diabetes, and other serious illnesses.  Lack of dental care can affect children's speech, nutrition, growth and development.  Over 51 million school hours are lost each year due to dental- related illness.


What do Dental Screenings involve?

This is a basic screening to help us understand the needs for dental care.  We will lokk to see if a child has sealants, whether they have been to a dentist, and who has greater needs for dental care.  We will send follow-up letters to parents of children who we believe could use further care.

Getting dental care for your child:

A screening does not replace regular dental care. The Oral Health Task Force has a sliding fee payment program for those without adequate dental insurance.


The Oral Health Task Force works to provide dental care to the children of Cook County and the Grand Portage Reservation.  We educate the community on the importance of early preventative care and promote financial assistance that makes dental care more affordable.

The Oral Health Task Force offers a generous sliding fee scale program to cover children 18 months to 26 years of age and other dental care needs for children not covered by other programs.

May 9-11
The preschoolers from Sawtooth Elementary will be visiting Grand Marais Family Dentistry. They will be touring the dental office, receiving exam, x-rays and dental education.  Bonnie Dalin, a hygienist from Grand Marais Family Dentistry and Oral Health Task Force, will be there to assist with the tours over the three days.

May 16
Oral Health Task Force is scheduleded to visit the preschoolers at Birch Grove Elementary. We will be covering topics on oral health, nutrition, and getting the preschoolers involved in fun learning activities to inspire a lifetime of optimal oral health.

May 23
The kindergarten classes from Great Expectations Charter School will be visiting Grand Marais Family Dentistry for a guided tour and educational experience.  Bonnie Dalin, RDH and Oral Health Education Coordinator for the Oral Health Task Force will be on hand to assist with the children during this great field trip into oral health.


Call Georgene or Bonnie  387-2334
Mail: PO Box 454 Grand Marais, MN 55604


Oral Health Videos



Oral Health Sliding Fee Scale Application Instructions
Oral Health Sliding Fee Scale Application
Prenatal Oral Health Care for Your Baby
Oral Health for Your Baby

Congratulations to the North Shore Health Care Foundation Oral HealthTask Force. They received the State award from Minnesota Association of Rural Health

-- RuralTeam Award Winner. 

The North Shore Health Care Foundation's Oral Health Task Force received the 2017 Minnesota Rural Health Team award. The task force works to bring critical preventive and restorative dental care to all infants, children and young adults in Cook County and the Grand Portage Reservation, regardless of their caregivers' ability to pay. They have shown tremendous leadership in overcoming significant barriers to oral health care such as poverty, maltreatment, transportation and misconceptions about what comprises good oral health. To achieve sustainability, the task force has begun integrating preventive oral health into the work of other medical and social service providers in the county.

North Shore Health Care Foundation's Oral Health Task Force:
Back Row, Left to Right:
Karl Hansen, Executive Director, North Shore Health Care Foundation
Bill Heitzman, Advanced Dental Therapist, Grand Marais Family Dentistry
Georgene Daubanton, Oral Health Coordinator
Bonnie Dalin, Dental Hygienist, Oral Health Education Coordinator
Joni Kristenson, RN, PN, Cook County Public Health Coordinator
Rita Plourde, CEO, Sawtooth Mountain Clinic
John Bottger, Past President, Board Member, North Shore Health Care Foundation
Todd Lemke, Board President, MN Rural Health Association

Front Row, Left to Right:
Jetty St. John, Grant Writer
Dr. Alyssa Hedstrom, Grand Marais Family Dentistry
Paul Nelson, Treasurer, North Shore Health Care Foundation; Chair, Oral Health Task Force
Teresa Borak, RN, Clinical Supervisor, Sawtooth Mountain Clinic

Speech to June 20, 2017 MN Rural Health Conference by Paul Nelson,
Chair of North Shore Health Care Foundation's Oral Health Task Force

Cook County, the tip of Minnesota’s Arrowhead, is an beautiful area of dense forests, the BWCA, Lake Superior and quaint towns like Grand Marais, Lutsen and Tofte. But it is a tough place to make a living: In 2016, half of our residents were on SNAP, receiving food stamps. Our reported incidents of child abuse are up 300% in the last 5 years. 1 in 4 households are touched by this abuse. Parents, faced with buying food or taking care of their children’s oral health, will choose food. In light of all that, Dr. Hedstrom and I met and decided we needed to do something about those children’s lack of oral health care. And we needed to pull together a team of community health professionals to help us meet our simple goal: Provide access to oral health care to all children in Cook County and the Grand Portage Reservation, regardless of their caregiver’s ability to pay. We are doing that:

1. We touch virtually every child in the Cook County Schools, including our Independent School District, the two charter schools in Tofte and Grand Marais, preschools, etc.

2. Our original target was all children from 18 months to 18 years. We’ve expanded that to Prenatal to 26 years.

3. Our original intent was to figure out how to identify those children who needed restorative treatments and set up and fund a sliding fee scale that would help caregivers pay for the dental treatments. We are doing that by getting grants from generous and committed foundations like Lloyd K. Johnson, Northland, Delta Dental, Medica and others.

4. Realizing that this was only treating a problem and not curing it, we created or found quality educational materials and have been using those to educate and train children, caregivers, expectant mothers, and the professionals in our community clinic, the dental office, our community health workers and our OHTF staff. If we can help create healthy mouths from birth, we can greatly reduce the pain, health issues and the great expense of restorative dental treatments.

5. But since this program must become sustainable without the constant infusion of money from grantors, we’ve begun integrating our processes into the daily life of these partners - our dental clinic, the community clinic and the community health system. By making this as efficient and economical as we can, we allow these partners to absorb these processes into their regular operations. And continue to improve oral health for all the children in our county and on the GP reservation.

6. Finally, a lot of this work wouldn’t be necessary if our legislators hadn’t put MN in the unconscionable position of having the 49th or 50th lowest public assistance pediatric reimbursement rate in the country! We will continue to do our work, but it’s time for the legislature to fix this problem. 062017 Speech to Rural Health Conference As Todd noted, we’d be happy to answer any questions in the St. Louis River Room during Session 3A from 9:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. Thank you for this wonderful award!

October 2016 News
Our task force has been doing great work this year: Our sliding fee scale payments subsidizing children’s oral health care are up nearly 300% over this time last year, meaning that our outreach to the community has really taken hold. We have increased our screenings and more parents are bringing their children in for checkups and restorative care (fillings, etc). Best news is that approximately 65% of those payments are for preventative care, rather than restoration, which means our kids in Cook County are truly benefiting by our regular screenings in schools, at homes and at WIC events. So they have healthier mouths, much less decay and should be able to maintain those healthy mouths long into the future. Our investments in education and early contacts are really paying off. But we are concerned about how we maintain this standard of care into the future. The foundations who support our efforts with their wonderful generosity prefer to help organizations get started with new initiatives, but are reluctant to support the organizations’ ongoing operations, feeling the latter divert funds that can help other worthy organizations get started on new healthcare initiatives. So we understand that we need to do something different to keep our oral care operation alive and growing. We decided that since we are already working with the community health services, our local dentist and the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic to help provide our services, we should try to “institutionalize” our services. That is, we create an educational and treatment system that is efficient, inexpensive, effective and can be performed by these professionals as part of their standard, daily operation. For example, we are working to upgrade the information our community health nurses give to expectant moms on their home health visits. Further, we will train those nurses to do fluoride varnishes on those moms’ other young children during these home visits. Fluoride varnishes are one of the best tools available to not only prevent tooth decay and related illnesses, but they also neutralize plaque development and can stop already existing decay in its tracks. It takes just a few minutes to apply, is cheap and lasts for months. To complete this transition from Task Force staff and volunteers reaching out to the community to our community health services adopting it as standard operations, we will need a few years to research and develop the best education materials available and train the healthcare professionals on what they need to do while maintaining our present operation. We needed to hire an oral health care professional to do our research, education and training. Thankfully, the Delta Dental Foundation thought our project had merit and gave us a three-year grant to get it done. At the same time, our other granting foundations (Lloyd K. Johnson, Northland, Medica, Mardag plus others) have stuck with us and continue to fund our regular outreach and treatment services. We were equally fortunate to find Bonnie Dalin, a dental hygienist from the Twin Cities who has not only great working experience as a hygienist but has also been involved in outreach services similar to ours. Bonnie moved her family to Grand Marais and began immediately to do our educational research, doing screenings at our local schools and meeting with the community health workers to learn what will and won’t work for them in bringing our services on family visits. With that and the great growth we are experiencing in treating children, we are very optimistic that our oral health initiative will survive and continue to spread throughout Cook County, creating healthy mouths and healthier kids.
Paul Nelson

                                                                                          Bonnie and Georgene

Bonnie Dalin Hired by Oral Health Task Force

I’d like to first say thank you to everyone at Grand Marias Family Dentistry, OHTF, North Shore Health Care Foundation, and my family who have made this a possibility for me. Looking back six months ago, I never dreamed that I would become a part of something so wonderful in a place that I now call home. I’ve been a registered dental hygienist for the past thirteen years, working in the twin cities for a large practice. I spent several of those years as the Clinical Team Lead, overseeing the clinical operations of the dental team. I moved to Grand Marias in June of this year with my three children and began working both as a Dental Hygienist at Grand Marias Family Dentistry and as the Oral Health Education Coordinator for the Oral Health Task Force. Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation awarded the Oral Health Task Force a three year grant to establish an oral health prevention program that will integrate the health services in Cook County with the dental team. Our goal is to make it the norm for the children and families of Cook County to have dental care along with the knowledge and resources to obtain good oral health. The last three months have been very busy. I have been continuously working on broadening my knowledge of dentistry with a focus on community health and Caries Management by Risk Assessment (CAMBRA), a simple tool used to assess one’s risk for decay based on their dietary habits, frequency of dental care, brushing and flossing habits, and medical issues (especially those that require the use of saliva reducing medications). It looks at the risk factors such as frequent sugary snacks and poor oral health habits and weighs them against the protective factors such as fluoride use from drinking water, toothpastes, and fluoride varnishes. Once the risk is assessed, then the patients’ homecare and fluoride use can be modified to increase these protective factors. Meeting many of the families and children through WIC has been a wonderful opportunity for me. I have had the chance to not only meet some of the families here in Cook County, but also help to provide information, new toothbrushes, and answer questions about oral health for new and expecting mothers and their children. I plan to provide fluoride treatments and risk assessments for the children who come to WIC. Another one of the goals of the OHTF is to prepare an educational component that will be presented to healthcare providers and public health nurses, as well as providing fluoride treatments for their patients. In the near future, I will be making some home visits with public health nurses to provide oral health education to the families of Cook County. Far too often the importance of good oral health in relation to our overall health is overlooked. I’m looking forward to being an educator and a resource for the families of this community.

Bonnie Dalin --Oral Health Education Coordinator

As you just read from the articles written by Paul Nelson and Bonnie Dalin, much is happening here at the Oral Health Task Force. I’m happy to say that the OHTF is in great shape and doing great work. It has been my honor and pleasure to be a part of this for the past four years. Bonnie and I represented the OHTF at Cook County High School ISD 166 on August 31st, 2016. We will also be doing a “Peek in the Mouth” screening at the school on October 17th for K-5th graders. The pre-school children are seen at the dental office in the spring of each year which is paid for by the OHTF. “Free Day” at the dentist is scheduled for November 28th and another in the spring. This is also paid for by the OHTF. Great Expectations and Birch Grove Charter Schools will be held this coming spring. A traveling dental bus visits the Grand Portage Reservation yearly and does dental screenings. My job as coordinator is to set up and coordinate school screenings, do the necessary follow up work for parents, set up and work the “Free Day” at the dental office, special events that happen throughout the year, office work including data entry, invoicing, running monthly committee meetings and minutes. Bonnie will concentrate on the educational component of the Oral Health Task Force. We’re thrilled to have Bonnie on board and I look forward to working with her this coming year.

Georgene Daubanton --Oral Health Task Force Coordinator 


We would like to thank the

for their generous donations to the oral health task force.

The Oral Health Task Force: This program is made possible by support from grants received 2011- March 2016.

Arrowhead Electric Cooperative, Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, First and Second Street Thrift Store, Grand Marais Lioness Club, Grand Marais Lions Club, Lloyd K Johnson Foundation, Mardag Foundation, Medica Foundation, Minnesota Dental Foundation, Minnesota Power Foundation, North Shore Health Care Foundation, Northland Foundation, Carlton-Cook-LakeSt. Louis Community Health Board, Atkins Memorial Fund, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation.
Website by Katherine Hellner and Sandra Schutte of Two Dogs in the Web, LLC