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Mobile Dental Vans Offer Free Dental Care for Children

This month is National Children's Dental Health Month. We've brought the "Bright Smiles, Bright Futures" mobile unit here this morning. Dr. Marsha Butler is the dentist that runs this program worldwide, and she volunteers on the mobile van to help kids keep their pearly whites in great shape.

Interview with Dr. Marsha Butler

I have been with this program for 10 years. I started the program because it became clear that there was a concern about minority health, and oral health was part of that. The mobile van goes to thousands of locations nationwide. We have six mobile dental vans and they travel to 25 to 30 cities around the country.

We work with volunteer dental professionals to provide oral heath screenings, education, and awareness to make children understand the value of good oral health.

We got the statistics of kids missing school due to dental problems from the surgeon general. The problems can range from a chipped tooth to something that can make a child have strong discomfort. And a toothache, of all things, can prevent the child from being able to concentrate on school lessons.

I'm not sure if there is one main tip for parents to help kids maintain their teeth, because they all support good oral hygiene. One of the most important things is being able to brush morning and night with fluoride toothpaste. That can begin to help reduce potential decay. However, it's still very important for families to have their children get regular checkups. Children can floss at about the age of 8 on their own. Eating nutritious snacks is also very important because we're not eating the kinds of foods that are healthy for our mouths and bodies.

We have numerous partnerships and collaborations with corporations that have allowed us to do this. Twenty-five percent of the children have almost 100% of the problem. It's a huge problem among economically socially deprived children. Our message is there's a great need for children who otherwise might not receive care to have a better opportunity to access care.

Some universities have programs, and there is a list of Medicaid providers that they can be referred to for free. We also work with community health care centers that are state funded that can take children and treat them for free.

Mobile Oral Care Vans

In celebration of National Children's Dental Health Month, mobile oral care vans make appearances at schools, day care centers, housing projects, street fairs, camps, and community centers nationwide to offer free dental screenings to kids between the ages of 2 and 12.

In February, mobile oral care vans will go to more than 25 New York area locations.

The program includes mobile dental vans that are staffed by volunteer dentists. The vans visit local communities and conduct free dental screenings and distribute educational materials for kids and their families about the importance of maintaining proper oral health

The program was strted in 1991 and has reached more than 20 million children. This year the vans are estimated to reach an additional 5 million children throughout the country.

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