The Tooth Taxi came to Fremont and Hay Elementary schools last week, providing dental care for children in need.
The Tooth Taxi travels to different schools in the state for two weeks, then touches base at home in Portland for one week before hitting the road again.
Fremont and Hay elementary schools hosted the Taxi between Wednesday, April 9, and Thursday, April 10.
It typically stays at a school from Monday through Friday, unless the drive forbids that time length, at which point they will be at a school from Tuesday through Thursday.
Schools with a high percentage of students that qualify for the free or reduced lunch program are given priority, as are students with no dental insurance or a need for dental work.
The school sends out permission slips on behalf of the Tooth Taxi, after which the dentist will screen the pool of kids who are requesting dental care.
At that screening, the dentist does a quick scan of the children in need and provides them with a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, and fluoride. The students with the most need get treatment.
According to the Dental Foundation of Oregon, there are over 600,000 Oregonians without insurance. In addition, nearly 56 percent of children ages 6-8 have dental decay.
From September of 2008 to December of 2012, 204 week long visits by the Tooth Taxi have occurred. 5,930 students have received treatment in the van, and an estimated $3,443,868 of costs has been covered by the DFO and OEA Choice Trust, which funds the program.
This particular taxi is headed by Dr. Josh Moffitt, who is the dentist on-site, and his two dental assistants Catherine Johnson and Jake Goertz.
The van is basically the office of Dr. Moffitt, according to his assistants. Johnson has been his assistant for over 2 years, while Goertz is closing on in his first year.
When asked the parameters of what the Tooth Taxi will cover, Goertz explained, “Fillings, stainless steel crowns, tooth extraction.”
If children are in pain, the dentist will see to that as well. One thing they are not yet set up for is root canals.
The work is certainly rewarding, says Goertz.
“The best things are that if a kid is pain, and we’re able to relieve that,” he said. “Or when they walk out of the van with a new smile.”
The next stop for the Tooth Taxi is Silver Lake, where it will spend the entire week of April 15 to April 19.
For more information on the Tooth Taxi service, visit http://www.smileonoregon.org.