The Tooth Truck
Help us give children back their smiles.
Thousands of children in our area suffer from a lack of access to dental care. It affects their health, their speech and their school attendance. They suffer pain and embarrassment. Ronald McDonald House Charities and The Tooth Truck, Inc. are addressing this need with the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, fondly known as the “Tooth Truck.”
Since its debut in July, 2002, over 14,230 children have been treated through 36,392 dental appointments valued at over $8.3 million. The Tooth Truck operates five days each week and the philosophy of the program is to complete each child’s treatment plan. That means that EVERY Tooth Truck patient ends up with a healthy smile!
Why the need is so great.
- Tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease. Five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever.(1)
- 52% of six- to eight-year-olds already have tooth decay.(2)
- 71% of Missouri dentists do not accept Medicaid patients because the reimbursement rate for their service is so low.
- One-third of six- to eight-year-olds with tooth decay go without treatment.
- Almost 80% of tooth decay in poor children is untreated.(3)
- Approximately 9,000 of the 24,000 Springfield student enrollment who participate in the free or reduced school lunch program do not have access to dental care.(4)
How does the Tooth Truck program work?
Thousands of low-income children in our area have no transportation or means to acquire dental treatment. The Tooth Truck removes those barriers. The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile is primarily a school-based program, providing treatment throughout each school day. Any child that qualifies for the free/reduced school lunch program is eligible to receive treatment on the Tooth Truck, regardless of whether or not they have Medicaid coverage. School nurses identify the children with the greatest needs and work hand-in-hand with the Tooth Truck staff to educate parents on the many benefits of Medicaid coverage for their children and family.
Big things come in small packages. Even though The Tooth Truck is a mobile office just over 200 square feet in size, it still has the ability to provide a full range of dental services, including x-rays, cleanings and sealants, root canals, fillings and more. Not only do we strive to provide healthy smiles for local children in need, we also educate them on the importance of good oral hygiene and how to properly brush and floss to ensure their new, healthy smiles last forever.
Our first priority is to help second- and sixth-grade students. These are critical years in tooth development, providing the greatest opportunities to educate and encourage children to incorporate oral hygiene into their daily routines. We also treat children in other age groups with acute dental needs. Most of our Tooth Truck patients have never been to a dentist. With prevention education accompanying treatment, we aspire to prevent tooth decay, the number-one chronic childhood disease, one child at a time. Our dedicated volunteers provide additional one-on-one support for children. They greet children and accompany them to and from their classrooms. They teach each child about oral hygiene and calm fears of children new to dental care. They even help with homework or teach a craft, providing true one-on-one time.
A wonderful byproduct of the dental treatment received on the Tooth Truck is a significant boost to each child’s self esteem. For many children, the completion of their treatment plan also means that they are no longer afraid to smile!
Oral Health Initiative: A Report of the Surgeon General, May 2000
Oral Health Initiative: Children’s Health Insurance Program
Oral Health Care Availability and Access: A Crisis for Missouri’s Children
Springfield Public Schools Department of Health Services
Statistics as of February 2014
|Number of Children Treated||15,893|
|Number of Appointments Provided||39,591|
|Average Number of Appointments Per Child||2.49|
Types of Dental Treatments Provided
|Preventative (cleaning, fluoride treatment, sealant)||41%|
|Diagnostic (exam, evaluation, x-rays)||20.25%|
|Adjunct Services (consultation, anesthesia)||0%|
|Oral Surgery (extractions)||1.5%|
|Endodontics (root canals, pulpotomy)||1.25%|
Age Ranges of Children Served
|0-2 (Early Head Start)||19|
|3-4 (Head Start)||988|
|5-6 (Kindergarten/1st Grade)||3,232|
|7-8 (2nd Grade/3rd Grade)||4,066|
|9-10 (4th Grade/5th Grade)||3,301|
|11-12 (6th Grade/7th Grade)||2,634|
|13-14 (8th Grade)||1,367|