Free dental care for students

by: Photo by Susan Matheny - Dr. Josh Moffitt, left, examines Madras Primary student Gilberto Palacios, 7, assisted by Catherine Johnson, prior to filling a tooth.

Some 59 students at Madras Primary received free dental treatment last week, thanks to the Tooth Taxi.
   The Tooth Taxi is a 38-foot motor home that has been customized into a high-tech dental office with two fully-equipped operatory units that include digital X-rays.
   With a full-time dentist and staff, the Tooth Taxi visits schools throughout Oregon to treat the uninsured and underserved children with limited access to dental care.
   Dentist Dr. Josh Moffitt, and dental assistants Catherine Johnson and Jacob Goertz were at Madras Primary all last week, doing dental screenings and treatment on students who had returned parent consent forms.
   Last Thursday, second-grader Gilberto Palacios happily watched cartoons on a ceiling screen while Dr. Moffitt put a filling in one of this teeth. It was the second procedure Gilberto had done during the Tooth Taxi's visit.
   "We've done screenings of 59 students, and of those, 58 percent needed treatment. The 42 percent who didn't need treatment got dental cleanings," said Goertz.
   In addition to the Tooth Taxi staff, a volunteer area dentist and an hygiene assistant helped do the cleanings.
   Since the van was launched in late 2008, staff and volunteers have screened over 12,000 students, delivered oral hygiene education in classrooms to 11,000 students and provided comprehensive and preventive dental care to over 5,000 students on the van, delivering $3.3 million in donated dental services.
   The Tooth Taxi is the result of a unique partnership with Oregon Education Association Choice Trust, Oregon Dental Society and the Dental Foundation of Oregon, the charitable arm of the Oregon Dental Association. It is funded by many of Oregon's leading foundations, corporations and individuals who care about children's oral health.
   Oregon children have among the worst oral health in the nation. The number of Oregon school children with untreated tooth decay jumped 12 percent during the past five years, and the problem is getting worse, according to the Dental Foundation of Oregon.
   Nearly 56 percent of children 6-8 years-old have dental decay and the numbers are significantly higher for low-income families.
   Only 20 percent of Oregon communities have fluoridated water, ranking it 48th among the 50 states.
   Oregon educators estimate there are nearly 5,000 children with dental pain in the state's schools every day. Dental disease is more pervasive than asthma in children, and if left untreated, it can lead to serious health issues, ODF reported.
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