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Dental pain ruining your weekend? Essentia Health to partner with area Dentists for pain relief

Essentia Health and Brainerd Lakes Area Dental Offices are Working together for solutions to emergency dental care.

The Emergency Department at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center can now offer patients with emergency dental problems more than antibiotics and pain medications. Patients can also get a referral to a local dentist to treat the underlying problem.

Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center

The Brainerd hospital is partnering with seven local dental offices and the United Way of Crow Wing and Southern Cass Counties in a project called “Help Crow Wing County Smile.”  The community collaboration is aimed at helping patients who lack the ability to pay for dental care or who rely on state or federal medical insurance to get connected to the place the patient can receive the care they need – a dentist office.

“Many people on Medical Assistance can’t get dental care so we become their only resource,” explains Terry Wurtzberger, director of St. Joseph’s Emergency Department. She estimates 25-35 patients visit the department each month due to dental emergencies. Another 10-20 patients go to Urgent Care in the Baxter Clinic.

Dr. Kevin Dens, a Baxter dentist, began researching the problem when he served on the hospital’s board and also on the board of the Minnesota Dental Association, where he now serves as president.

“The emergency department is not equipped to deal with dental problems,” Dr. Dens explains. “They can’t address the underlying problem. By the time people have pain, the decay is so deep into the teeth that it is a major problem.”

Dr. Dens helped recruit six other dental offices to treat patients who come to the Emergency Department and don’t have their own dentist. Those patients are referred to a participating dentist and make their own appointments.

Low reimbursement rates have prompted some dentists to quit accepting patients on government programs, which has reduced access to dental care. That has contributed to the number of people seeking emergency dental care at hospitals, Dr. Dens says.

To help launch the program, the Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Foundation contributed $15,000 to a pilot project in which the United Way partially reimburses the participating dentists for their services when they accept these patients. In addition to Dr. Dens and his son, Dr. Chris Dens, at Cosmetic & Family Dentistry, the participating dental offices are Dr. Paul Perpich, Lakes Country Dental, Design Dental, Edgewood Dental, Lakes Dental Care and Winegar Dental.

Patients that are referred for emergency dental care through “Help Crow Wing County Smile” are asked to given back to the community an hour of volunteer time in exchange for each $25 worth of dental care they receive. The United Way coordinates the giving back part of the program through their online volunteer hub, Get Connected?, at

“We want to offer the best solution for the patient, the hospital and the dentist,” says Dr. Dens. “We want to make a difference and help people cope with dental problems.”


“We’re trying to help people connect with the right care at the right time with a dentist,” says Jessica Martensen, the Essentia Health-Baxter Clinic manager who also worked on the project. “We’ve come together with dentists to see how we can help our community.”



Free meals for kids in the #Brainerd Lakes Area this summer! #OperationSandwich


The generosity and kindness of this area never ceases to amaze me. I learn about Operation Sandwich back in 2015 and, for the record, I am very grateful that this area offers such a service for our youngest community members.

Operation Sandwich.

Operation Sandwich

“Operation Sandwich is a grassroots program that exists to end childhood hunger by feeding kids during the summer months when free and reduced meals are not available through the school system.”

Operation Sandwhich

Summer might be much-anticipated for kids, but it’s also a time of hungry bellies and boredom. This poses a serious problem when school is not in session and many families are struggling to make ends meet.  Operation Sandwich is run with the support of volunteers and the support of the United Way and ISD 181.

Volunteers get together at First Lutheran Church to create simple bag lunches for kids in need in the community  four times a week: Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The simple meals will consist of  peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit and granola bars. Thursday’s bag will contain a few more items to bridge the weekend.

The thought of Littles being hungry pains me and volunteering for this organization is something that has been on my Bucket List for a while. I was also thrilled to learn that there is a book component; The Book Wagon. I have already signed up as a book wagon wrangler and will be calling out to my Multicultural Children’s Book Day authors to fire some books my way!

Did you know that 42% of total school population is on free and reduced meal program? Read more stats HERE.


Operation sandwich
I tip my hat to Brainerd Public Schools, United Way and all the volunteers who help make this program a success. pass the word! To learn more go here or go here to see how you can volunteer.
A word about volunteering (something I plan to do this summer)
How Can I Volunteer?
Operation Sandwich relies on volunteers to both MAKE sandwiches and DELIVER lunches to our various sites throughout the community. Whether you have just a short time to volunteer or are able to give more of your day, we have the opportunity for you!Here is what a typical day looks like:
Making Lunches:
10:30 to 11:30 am- Your group meets the Operation Sandwich Coordinator at First Lutheran Church (424 S. 8th Street, Brainerd, MN) to make the sandwiches and assemble the bag lunches that will be delivered that day.Delivering Lunches:
11:15 am to 1:30 pm –
You will arrive at First Lutheran Church to be pick up the lunches and given directions and instructions on where you will be going and everything you will need to know to deliver lunches.
Once you have your instructions and supplies, you will leave First Lutheran to head to your delivery sites.  (We run an East Route, a West Route and a South Route simultaneously requiring 3 vehicles/adult drivers per day. Your family needs to provide a minimum of 1 vehicle/adult driver. Groups may need to provide 1-3 vehicles depending on the number of volunteers you are bringing.)
When you have completed your route, you will return to First Lutheran Church to turn in all supplies and be on your way!

Hooked? Fishhook Removal Tips that won’t Spoil your Summer Fun

{Shared with permission from Essentia Health press release}

The lakes draw many to live and vacation in our beautiful area. However, a common injury for those who fish or just hang out near docks and boats is becoming “hooked” when the intended catch was a fish.

Fish hook removal

The medical team at Essentia Health recommends removing the fish hook from your finger using the String Yank Technique:

 Remove hook from lure by cutting at attachment ring.

  1. Tape any additional free hooks to prevent the hooks from also getting embedded.
  2. First, wash your hands with soap and water, or disinfecting solution, and then wash the area surrounding the hook.
  3. Tie off a loop with some fishing line. Place the loop over the hook’s shank and lightly pull it against the bend of the hook.
  4. With your other hand, press down and back on the hook’s eye.
  5. Continue pressing down on the hook’s eye. Quickly and firmly jerk the fishing line backward, ensuring that the line is parallel to the shank. Don’t worry; only a tiny bit of skin is behind the barb.
  6. Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and apply a bandage.
  7. Watch the area for signs of infection such as redness, swelling, pain, or drainage.

fish hook removal

We do not recommend pushing the hook through your skin and cutting the barb as this introduces another potential wound for infection. Also, do not try to remove a fish hook that is deeply embedded in the skin, lodged within a joint or tendon, or located in or near an eye or artery. If you are at all unsure, it is best to seek medical attention immediately.

Essentia offers four convenient locations for walk-in care 7 days-a-week when the unexpected happens:

Convenient Care located at both the Baxter and Brainerd Cub Foods, respectively located at 417 8th Avenue NE in Brainerd and 14133 Edgewood Drive in Baxter. These locations are open 8am-8pm.

 Urgent Care, located at the Essentia Health Baxter Clinic 13060 Isle Drive in Baxter, is open Monday-Friday 8am-8pm and on weekends from 9am-4pm.

Emergency care is available 24 hours a day at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center, located at 523 North Third Street in Brainerd. Wait times for Convenient Care clinics, Urgent Care, and Emergency Department can be viewed at

If fishing is a favorite past time, we recommend your tackle box contain an electrician’s pliers with a wire-cutting blade and disinfecting solution. Additionally, don’t forget to receive a Tetanus immunization every 10 years. If needed, it may be done any time in the 72 hours following the injury.


Brainerd Lakes Bicycle Safety Clinic and Pequot Lakes PTA Bike Rodeo May 20

{Shared with permission from Essentia Health of Brainerd press release}

Bike Rodeo

Children and their parents are invited to attend one of the two local Bike events on Saturday, May 20. Both events are open to riders of all ages free of charge.

Brainerd Lakes Bicycle Safety Clinic from 10:00 a.m.–Noon at the Brainerd High School’s lower parking lot, in the event of inclement weather in the Brainerd High School gym; or Pequot Lakes PTA Bike Rodeo from 9:00 a.m.-Noon at Eagle View Elementary. Don’t forget to bring your bike and helmet!

Bicycling is a favorite past time for all ages, but understanding safety first is the key to staying safe and having fun! Children and their bike will visit various stations for a review of bicycle safety rules, a bicycle safety check, and be checked for a properly fitted helmet. Then they will put the knowledge they gained to the test by riding a mock course. Once complete, they can enter a drawing for a bike, and other treats.

If a child does not have a bike helmet or the one they have does not fit properly, they will receive one from Essentia Health. “We are excited to bring these events to our communities,” said Heather Nixon, Trauma Coordinator at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center. “Learning bicycling safety at a young age will stick with someone for life, just like riding a bike.”

Events will be held rain or shine and are brought to you by: Pequot Lakes PTA, Essentia Health, Crow Wing County Passenger Safety Coalition, Baxter Police Department, Brainerd Police Department, Brainerd Parks & Recreation, Brainerd School District 181, Easy Riders Bicycle and Sport Shop, Lakes Area Law Enforcement Association (LALEA), Lifecycle, and Dairy Queen.

“These Bike Safety Clinics are an opportunity for us to provide the community with injury prevention,” said Nixon. “It’s a way to actively engage kids and inform them of some of the things that they can do to prevent injuries while riding a bike.”

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