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Tooth Taxi Helps Spread Dental Joy

Dec 16, 2013

The Tooth Taxi isn’t exactly a sleigh, and the volunteers donating their expertise aren’t really elves, but thanks to their generosity, hundreds of Oregon school children needing dental treatment will have themselves a merry little Christmas this year.

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Not to be confused with the Polar Express, the Tooth Taxi is a brightly-colored, 38-foot mobile dental clinic operated year-round. It has been outfitted as a high-tech dental office for little folks with visions of sugar plums – and a taste for sour candy, gummies and soft drinks. Kids can even watch cartoons and movies while receiving treatment. It’s like a kiddie’s day spa for cavity prevention and treatment.

That’s all part of making visits aboard the Tooth Taxi a positive experience for kids, program manager Mary Daly said. “Once word gets out that it’s fun, the kids post about it on social media, and they get excited about coming in." 

Kiddie's Day Spa for cavity prevention and treatment
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Since 2008, many children in low-income areas of Oregon have clambered aboard the Tooth Taxi and received preventive dental services like cleanings, x-rays, fluoride varnish treatments and sealants for their teeth. Others with more serious needs have been given tooth restorations, pulpotomies, extractions and stainless steel crowns.

But there are more surprises in the Tooth Taxi’s goodies bag. Each child, whether naughty or nice, also gets a dental kit with toothbrush and toothpaste, floss, a timer for brushing and a mirror. Elves – I mean volunteer staff – provide group instruction about oral hygiene and brushing techniques. The Tooth Taxi also treats young adult migrant workers around Oregon.

Dr. Bruce Richardson, a retired dentist and one of 600 statewide volunteer dentists, hygienists and dental assistants who donate their time on the Tooth Taxi, enjoys meeting the children and helping them with dental needs that might otherwise go unmet. “That was kind of fun, and he was really appreciative,” he said after treating a 5-year-old boy. “To be able to get kids out of pain is really special.”

Dr. Richardson says he treats about seven to eight children a day. Those children needing orthodontic work are referred to volunteer orthodontists.

The Tooth Taxi parks for a week at a local school to see as many students as possible, including those who require more than one visit that week for their needs.

“There are a lot of educators who understand how much dental pain affects kids’ nutrition and their learning ability,” Daly said. “They’re super supportive of the program because they see kids in pain or who are absent because of toothaches.  We had one student who was in so much pain that he tried to pull his own tooth with pliers.  We see a tremendous amount of decay.”

Dental Wire has reported on the connection between oral health issues and how it affects student attendance, grades and takes parents away from work an average of 2.5 days a year.

The Tooth Taxi has visited about 236 schools and community programs throughout Oregon since beginning its mission, treated more than 14,000 students and dispensed $3.9 million in free dental care. The Tooth Taxi is sponsored by The Dental Foundation of Oregon, the OEA Choice Trust and Moda Health.

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The Dental Insurance Store doesn't have a cool taxi, but we do have several dental plans to meet the needs of children and adults. If you’d like a free quote and to see what plans are available in your area, click here.

Sources: Dr Bicuspid, The Dental Foundation of Oregon

Copyright 2013 Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC©



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