PORTLAND -- Oregon children have one of the highest rates of dental problems in the nation. But a unique clinic is trying to change that.
From the outside, the Tooth Taxi looks kind of like a tour bus. But step inside, you'll find a state-of-the-art dental office on wheels.
“We are a dental clinic that provides free care and oral health education to under-served children all over state of Oregon,” said Charlie LaTourette, executive director of the Dental Foundation of Oregon.
On Monday, the Tooth Taxi stopped at Rigler Elementary School in Northeast Portland.
Students jumped on-board and got a full dental exam complete with X-rays. Some of the kids had only been the dentist one or two times before.
“Some have never been to the dentist, so everything is new, so we take the time to explain what we are doing, “ said Dr. Jennifer McLeod, the staff dentist on-board.
More than 50 percent of Oregon children suffer from tooth decay. Experts point to a shortage of dental professionals and poor nutrition as causes, but say poverty is the number one reason.
Many parents simply can't afford to take their kids to the dentist and that leads to more than just cavities.
“Untreated dental decay is the leading cause of absenteeism and the leading cause of not being able to focus ... not being able to do homework,” said Cassandra Griffin, with Upstream Public Health.
“We don’t have any oral health education our curriculum in the state of Oregon, that’s a big problem,” said LaTourette.
Staff on-board the Tooth Taxi stress education for both kids and parents.