Kimberly Felton and Tracey Goldner | Feb 05, 2008
OREGON - Vose Elementary is bursting with potential--and with need. Bright, inquisitive eyes at this school are often matched with deep cavities and cracked teeth. Pain threatens to overshadow potential. The dentists volunteering with Medical Teams International's Mobile Dental program don't want that to happen, but they need help to meet a growing need.
$100,000 Grant Awarded, But Program Needs More Dental Volunteers
Vose Elementary is bursting with potential—and with need. Bright, inquisitive eyes at this school are often matched with deep cavities and cracked teeth. Pain threatens to overshadow potential.
The dentists volunteering with Medical Teams International’s Mobile Dental program don’t want that to happen, but they need help to meet a growing need.
Dozens in need at one local school
Prevention is a major focus of the dental program. “It’s not okay to skip brushing and flossing at night,” Krista Handy, manager of the Mobile Dental clinic visiting Vose Elementary, tells one child as she applies a floride treatment, “but you get a break today because I’m painting your teeth.” (Photo by Jessica Bruce)
“Deep cavities and cracked teeth keep kids from sleeping, going to class and living their lives,” says Dr. Bill Kirkland, a dentist from Beaverton, Oregon, who volunteers with Mobile Dental. For him, it was fitting to spend February 1—national Give Kids a Smile Day—at Vose Elementary.
Four of every five students at Vose qualify for financial aid. Hardworking parents stretch to cover basic needs, but sometimes “basic” just cannot stretch far enough to include dental care. A shaky economy and rising health care costs don’t give parents much hope. Yet “nearly every child I see on the van has an acute condition that requires immediate attention,” Kirkland says.
“We know that many Oregon families simply cannot afford dental treatment,” says Steve Vickers, manager of the Mobile Dental program. “Parents often have to choose between buying food and taking their child to the dentist. We don’t want them to have to make that tough decision.”
Neither does Providence Health Plans, In January 2008, the organization awarded $100,000 to expand the reach of Mobile Dental. But funds alone will not expand the program.
Expanding program needs more dental volunteers
Dental assistant Cassandra Baralt (l) and Dr. Bill Kirkland (r) provided care to 12 students on Feb. 1. Medical Teams International is calling for more dental volunteers, to expand the Mobile Dental program to more people in need. (Photo by Jessica Bruce)
Whether it is a cracked tooth in need of extraction or a neglected cavity, volunteers like Kirkland are helping relieve pain and bring a healthier smile to kids without any other options.
Slightly more than 5 percent of Oregon’s dental professionals currently volunteer for Mobile Dental. If 1 percent more of the 4,000 available dentists and dental hygienists in Oregon volunteered four days a year, a mobile unit would be in service 160 more days—and that means 1800 more people would receive the care they need.
“The program is filling a big need,” Kirkland says. “Parents who can’t afford to bring their children to private offices like mine don’t have any other choices. I’m glad I can help in this way.”
“Parents are so grateful for this service,” says Sabrina Gomez, a school counselor at Vose Elementary. “Although the care is free, one mother recently gave me $20 to pass along to Medical Teams International. She was just so appreciative her child had received care.”