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Hitting the Road for Oral Health

Hitting the Road for Oral Health

The new Dental Caring Van is expanding access to dental screenings and education across Oklahoma.

Experts are seeing more and more that oral health plays a vital role Learn more about third-party links in our health and well-being.

That's why the Oklahoma Caring Foundation launched the Dental Caring Van in 2018. The dental van gives screenings and educates people who live in rural communities or face other barriers to dental care.

For 25 years the Caring Foundation – supported by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma – has bridged gaps in care across Oklahoma. The foundation's Caring Van brings immunizations and other preventive health services to children and adults with little access to health care.

The addition of the dental van allows the program to provide oral exams, X-rays and consultations. Patients also get oral health counseling about tobacco, nutrition, dry mouth and diabetes, as well as tips for brushing and flossing.

Since the Dental Caring Van hit the road in September 2018, it has provided screenings in Cleveland, Grady, Oklahoma, Payne, Rogers, Washington and Tulsa counties.

"With this new dental van, we are expanding our geographic reach, as well as the lifesaving preventive oral health services," said Brooke Townsend, executive director, Oklahoma Caring Foundation.

The Dental Caring Van travels with the Oklahoma Dental Foundation's MobileSmiles, increasing the number of treatments provided at each location.

"This is going to help us be more effective in providing dental care," said John Wilguess, the Oklahoma Dental Foundation's executive director. "It's going to help with keeping costs down so that we can provide more care to more people."

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

The Oklahoma Caring Foundation and Its Partners are Making a Difference

Announcer: The most important thing we can do for ourselves is to make the conscious choice to take care of our health.

A big part of that is by preventing diseases that could be harmful or even fatal to us.

But what about those who rely on us to take care of them? Diseases that were once widespread with high mortality rates among children have been drastically reduced, many to the point of full eradication, thanks to the creation of Vaccines. However, the dangers of contracting these diseases remain high without the proper Immunizations and health screenings…especially in underserved populations.

And that is why the Oklahoma Caring Foundation has made it their mission to provide immunizations, health screenings, and dental services to children who are Medicaid eligible, uninsured, or Native American, at no cost, through their Caring Van program. Because keeping our children healthy is the key to preventing future outbreaks.

Schools require immunizations in order for children to enroll. However, many families cannot afford the cost of going to a doctor. The Caring Vans are able to travel to all 77 counties in Oklahoma, providing those immunizations at no cost for families who qualify.

But it's not just immunizations that keep kids healthy. The vans also provide BMI screenings and dental checkups to help keep parents and their children on the road to a healthy life.

But we can't do it alone. We work with local and state health departments, Tribal and Latino organizations, child care facilities, schools and other community partners to reach the most children as possible.

Partnerships allow us to impact public health in ways we couldn't on our own. We are building relationships in communities across the state, and bringing public health services to the people in these communities. Nurses from health departments ride along, and are the ones who administer the immunizations and screenings, providing an experienced and licensed partner in our daily operations.

Ellen Niemitalo: "The partnership between the Tulsa Health Department and the Oklahoma Caring Foundation impacts the health of Tulsa County. We know that providing vaccines to a child, protects not only that child against that disease, but the family of that child; the community of that child. We know that we are raising the immunization level of a community, and once it reaches a certain level, we know the instances of vaccine-preventable diseases significantly will decline."

Partnerships have opened up new opportunities for us to serve Oklahomans. This year, we introduced the new Dental Caring Van, which was made possible through our partnership with the Oklahoma Dental Foundation.

John Wilguess: "Our mission is really about building relationships to improve oral health around the state of Oklahoma. And, having the Caring Foundation as a partner in all of this helps us achieve things that we would never have been able to before. And so we think overall, this is going to help us be more effective in providing dental care, it's going to help keep costs down so we can provide care to more people, and it's going to, in the end, make sure that we are going to see more Oklahomans that are desperate for dental care be able to get that when we come to them."

The Oklahoma Caring Foundation and its partners do this for one reason…the future of our children.

They deserve to live healthy and happy lives, and we are dedicated to helping them do just that…every day.