Veneta Elementary school Principal Olivia Johnson isn’t a math teacher but she figured out the perfect formula to help improve the oral health of children in her school.
Olivia knew there were kids in her school that needed dental care and when her friend, Marquita Corliss with the Community Health Centers of Lane County, told her about the Tooth Taxi, Olivia got organized. The school partnered with the Community Health Centers to conduct an initial dental screening so a list of students would be ready for the Tooth Taxi’s first visit.
Johnson got the staff involved early, and reached out to parents to let them know what the Tooth Taxi is, and that it was coming to town. She used fliers, the school website and reader board, and plenty of phone calls to reach parents and recruit volunteers for the visit. Johnson and school staffers worked with parents to complete necessary paper work for the children. “It definitely takes a lot of effort on the schools part to reach out with parents,” Johnson says, adding she alone dedicated about 20 hour recruiting. “I would do 200 hours if I knew it was going to pay off that way!”
During the first visit, the Tooth Taxi screened 44 students and 84 percent needed treatment. Tooth Taxi staff led classroom oral health presentation for 159 students during that visit, and the dental team provided $26,596 in free dental services.
“That just made a huge difference and had such an impact,” Johnson says.
Since the Tooth Taxi has been visiting Veneta Elementary, Johnson has seen firsthand the impact of its services, including improved attendance and classroom participation by children. “I’ve seen kids who are actually happier. I’ve seen kids who are more on task. I’ve seen parents who are grateful for the support and the help, and the kids are excited to go to the Tooth Taxi,” she says.
Carrie Peterson, the Tooth Taxi’s program manager, says the commitment of Johnson and other school staff, as well as engaged parents and volunteers, are among the qualities that make Veneta Elementary a model site for the Tooth Taxi.
During its most recent visit, the Tooth Taxi completed treatment on all of the children identified during the initial screening. In total, visits by the Tooth Taxi have provided 133 students with dental screenings (identifying some serious health issues), 289 students received oral hygiene presentations in their classroom, and 150 children received preventive and restorative dental care on the van. The total value of the donated dental services is conservatively estimated at $89,855. More importantly, results show that the combination of committed school partners, parent involvement, oral health treatment and education, and repeat visits make a real difference for children. It’s a winning formula for children who are not getting into see a dentist.