Mobile Dental Care Program

Tuesday, July 10th 2007, 12:22 pm
By: News On 6

Hundreds of Oklahoma children now have brighter, healthier smiles thanks to a group of volunteer dentists working to reach the state's rural areas where affordable access to dental care is limited. It's dentistry on wheels. The News On 6’s Heather Lewin reports state health officials discovered a serious problem in outlying areas, after a nine-state study ranked Oklahoma worst in children's untreated tooth decay.

Since the Mobile Dental Care Program hit the road six months ago, more than 600 children have been seen, many in need of emergency treatment. We caught up with the van in the town of Porter.

"I hate to say how many years it's been since I've been to the dentist, and I have three children and no insurance. I can't afford insurance,” said patient Kristin Bolen.

Started by the Oklahoma Dental Foundation, this dentist's office on wheels provides state of the art services at no cost to those in need.

"Just underprivileged people who need dental care that can't get it, can't afford it going to private practice dentist,” said Dr. Josh Looney.

The program caters to children, but adults also benefit.

“We're just trying to promote good oral health and get it back to what it should be,” said Dr. Looney.

Kristen Bolen says she has to save up all year to try to get regular appointments for her three kids.

"I take them for checkups, and I can't afford to follow through on their advice. I can't afford to bring them back,” Bolen said.

For Bolen, mobile care is a lifesaver.

"I want my children to be healthy,” Bolen said. “That's really important."

Organizers say studies show more than 40% of Oklahoma's children have untreated decay, with the highest numbers in the southeastern part of the state. For doctors who volunteer, a healthy smile is all the payment they need.

“If people have good teeth and a good smile, then they're happier, more outgoing. If you've got bad teeth and decay and stuff, you're not willing, you're less willing to smile,” Looney said. “It increases quality of life."

The Mobile Dental Care Program is dependent on volunteers, community donations and local social service agencies. The goal isn't just treatment, but education on the importance of brushing, flossing and overall oral hygiene.

For more information on the dental van, call 800-876-8890.

Watch the video: Teeth Cleaning On The Go