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The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, fondly known as "The Tooth Truck", provides dental treatment and prevention education for at risk children in Springfield with little to no access to dental care. Mike Smith recently visited the Tooth Truck and files this story for KSMU's Sense of Community series:
Voices heard on these KSMU Sense of Community Series features about the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile include:
Bonnie Keller, President of Ronald McDonald House Charities, Ronald McDonald House of the Ozarks; Mindy Wise, Ronald McDonald House Charities Tooth Truck Program Manager; Shannon Rogers, Tooth Truck Dental Assistant (Giving dental hygiene instruction to 9 year old boy); Cindy Waters, School Nurse at Bissett Elementary. (School Nurses play important role in identifying kids with the most need.);
Dr. Craig Rechkemmer,Tooth Truck Dentist since program began in 2002. And 5 year old Sabrina, whose Christmas wish was to get new teeth because hers were "..Black and icky".
Tooth Truck staff also includes Dental Assistant Laura Polocoser and Office Manager Mindy Norris.
Thousands of children in our area suffer from lack of 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 Summer, 2002, nearly 6,000 children have been treated through over 17,000 dental appointments valued at $3.7 million. That's 6,000 children who have started towards a happier childhood. Many had never been to a dentist, and most required around three return visits just to correct their dental problems. "The Tooth Truck" provides treatment for approximately 16 children per clinic day.
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 9,024 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 have no transportation or means to acquire care. "The Tooth Truck" removes those barriers. The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile visits the schools. School nurses identify Medicaid-eligible children and/or kids in the free or reduced school lunch program with the biggest needs.
80% of our focus is on 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. The other 20% is focused on children in other age groups with acute dental needs.
"The Tooth Truck" provides a full range of dental services, including x-rays, cleanings and sealants, root canals and fillings. With oral hygiene education accompanying treatment, we aspire to prevent tooth decay, the number-one chronic childhood disease, one child at a time. Our dedicated dozens of 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.
Craig Rechkemmer, D.D.S., is in his fifth year of restoring smiles on the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile. In the past five years, Dr. Craig has provided over 17,000 appointments for Springfield-area children.