Since 2005, the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile program (a partnership between the University of Kentucky and RMHC of the Bluegrass) has offered Eastern Kentucky’s children free professional dental services and education aboard a state-of-the-art mobile clinic. Centered in Hazard, KY (Perry County) the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile cares for under-served children in their own neighborhoods and schools.
The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile is designed specifically for the purpose of providing quality pediatric dental care and education and includes two dental chairs and professional staff as well as volunteer support. Services are provided at 15 elementary schools in Perry and Knott Counties, 20 Head Start centers in Perry, Knot, Leslie, and Letcher counties, and at a variety of community events. Each school year, the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile provides preventative dental services to over 2,000 children receive preventative dental services each school.
When the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile program started in 2005, baseline data showed that the children of eastern Kentucky had the second highest rates of untreated tooth decay in the nation! Nearly 7 out of every 10 elementary children had tooth decay. The consistent preventive efforts of the program have brought untreated decay rates down a total of 23% and urgent dental needs (pain, infection) have been cut in half!
While dental disease is itself a discrete health concern, like many other chronic diseases, it has broader health impacts. Poor oral health has been linked to increased risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. Poor oral health in children has been shown to result in decreased academic performance and can adversely affect behavioral and social development. In Perry County the school superintendent noted that the two schools with the lowest tooth decay rates were the two schools that had the highest standardized test scores in the county!
Children who receive these frequent, fun dental visits at their own school have significantly less dental fear than their parents’ generation. The individualized and classroom education also provide knowledge of the importance of oral health and making good nutrition choices.
4,620 dental visits provided
–All Head Start centers in Perry, Knott, Leslie, and Letcher Counties
–All Perry County elementary, middle, and 2/3 high schools
–All Knott County elementary, middle, and 2/2 high schools
2,341 individual children treated
–461 Head Start children
–1,828 elementary school children
–52 high school children
–60% Head Start
–3% high school