A new mobile dental clinic will travel throughout the Valley for the 2018-19 school year, providing free dental cleanings, cavity fillings and teeth extractions to 8,000 children a year.
Thanks to a $542,000 grant from Kaiser Permanente, the Healthy Smiles Mobile Dental Foundation purchased a new mobile dental clinic and refurbished an existing mobile clinic to continue providing free dental treatment for students in need.
Both will deliver full-scope oral health care to underserved children in 100 rural and inner-city communities throughout the Valley.
Susan Kodama, Healthy Smiles CEO, said some of those communities include Sanger, Kerman, Parlier, Firebaugh, Mendota, Dos Palos, and Gustine working with the local school districts.
Kodama said before the grant, the foundation only had one mobile clinic and couldn’t serve all those in need.
Now with the second mobile dental clinic, Kodama said, “we could serve more. We can open to areas that really need us.”
Tooth decay is the No. 1 chronic childhood disease and causes 51 million lost school hours per year, according to Kaiser Officials.
Representatives from Kaiser Permanente, the Fresno Unified School District and the Healthy Smiles Mobile Dental Foundation unveiled the new mobile dental clinic on Oct. 19 at Mayfair Elementary School.
Approximately 120 Mayfair Elementary students received services through the unit, which provides teeth cleanings, extractions, fillings and x-rays.
One of those students was Keophet Phimmasone, 10, who had her teeth cleaned, and also 11-year-old Galvin Chanthasen who also got his teeth checked that day.
After the cleaning, Phimmasone said her teeth felt clean and looked shiny.
“They did a good job brushing,” said the fifth grader.
Kaiser Permanente senior vice president Wade Nogy said the grant is providing care to vulnerable children in the community who might not have access to dental care.
“We know there are families in our community who can’t afford to see a dentist, which is why Kaiser Permanente Fresno is committed to serving the health needs of our community through this program,” he said.
“We know our students’ health is vital to their learning,” said Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson of the importance of good oral health for student’s success in the classroom.
“We are incredibly grateful for our partners Healthy Smiles and Kaiser Permanente,” Nelson added.
Kodama said the two mobile dental clinics return to the school sites six months later for follow-up checkup with the students.
“We are not any diferent than any dental office,” Kodama said, adding that they go to the students instead of waiting for the students to come to them. “Some of them don’t have access to transportation.”
“We come back and fix any cavities and start all over,” Kodama said, adding that 67 percent of those students are decay free when they see them six months later.”