Ronald McDonald Care Mobile

Ronald McDonald Care MobileIn partnership with University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, our Ronald McDonald Care Mobile program provides dental service to children ages 3 to 12 in under-served areas of Northeastern Ohio.  Too many Northeast Ohio children’s lives are being affected by tooth decay. Their school work suffers, they don’t eat properly and they won’t smile because they’re embarrassed about their teeth. All the fun things about being a child just aren’t fun anymore.

Even more troubling is that long term, if untreated, tooth decay and dental problems can lead to other more serious health concerns. Far too many children are not getting access to basic dental services and ultimately, hospitalization is required to remedy serious, yet preventable conditions.  For an increasing number of Northeast Ohio children, inadequate dental hygiene and its consequences are a daily reality.

Pediatric dental disease, also known as childhood tooth decay, is the #1 chronic childhood disease in America, five times more common than asthmaChildhood tooth decay can have devastating consequences on a child’s health and wellness that extend beyond the dental chair.

  • 1 in 5 children go without dental care
  • More than 40% of children have dental cavities by the time they reach kindergarten
  • Children with poor oral health are 3 times more likely to miss school as a result of dental pain
  • More than 51 million hours of schooling are lost annually due to lack of dental care among American children
  • Emergency department care for dental complaints cost up to $2.1 billion in 2010
  • Dental care is the most prevalent unmet health care need for children with special needs

If left untreated, severe tooth decay can lead to malnourishment, anemia, emergency surgery, life-threatening secondary infections and death. Seriously impacting self-esteem, employment prospects, social development and overall quality of life, untreated tooth decay and gum disease also have a direct correlation to heart disease, stroke, pulmonary disease and pre-term, low birth-weight babies.

With limited or no access to oral health care, children from impoverished families and some minority groups have a much higher rate of tooth decay. These children are at significant risk for impaired cognitive and social development, educational disparities and a lifetime of shame associated with dental disease.

While the Affordable Care Act expands dental benefit coverage for children, it does not address critical access to care issues caused by the loss of school-based dental education programs, state budget cuts, low reimbursement rates that prevent providers from accepting Medicaid patients, health professional shortage areas, and the overall lack of Medicaid dollars going toward dental care.

Lack of access to pediatric dental care creates a set of health disparities that impede wellness throughout adulthood. As a result, a significant burden is placed on local communities, exacerbating poverty, increasing long-term health consequences, decreasing workforce productivity and draining significant personal and governmental financial resources.

The good news?  Tooth decay is 100% preventable!

Ronald McDonald Care Mobile

The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile® of Northeastern Ohio (RMCM) provides diagnostic, preventative and restorative dental treatment and prevention education for at-risk children that have little to no access to dental care.  The RMCM is a state-of-the-art, 42 foot long dentist office on wheels that delivers much needed dental care to children in their own communities. The vehicle accommodates three patient dental operatories, a digital x-ray machine, and a medical records area. The vehicle is designed with a clean-burning hybrid diesel fuel engine and generator.

The RMCM program addresses the community’s most critical childhood health needs and eliminates many of the barriers underserved families face in access to dental care. The RMCM program reduces reliance on expensive and inappropriate health resources, such as hospital emergency departments.    child receiving treatment on RMCM

The RMCM program raises awareness of healthy lifestyles and helps eligible families acquire government-assisted health insurance.

The program is overseen by the RMCM Advisory Committee, comprised of two pediatric dentists, the UH/RBC Hospital President and several others.  A full-time Pediatric Dentist is employed to provide services 5 days each week and local dental school students and dental hygienist students volunteer to treat and learn from experts on the RMCM.  The overall program is administered by a Program Director that reports to the UH/RBC Director of Women and Children’s Ambulatory and Community Acute Care Services.  Additional staff includes a Scheduler, 2 Dental Assistants/Hygienists, and a full-time and a part-time vehicle driver, who have both obtained their commercial drivers license.

The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile can provide:

Dental exams & preventative care
Emergency palliative treatment, including temporary restorations
Tooth extractions – not requiring specialty intervention
Complete oral examinations and radiographs
Filling cavities
Placing crowns
Providing pulp therapy
Application of bacteria-killing fluoride varnish (which reduces decay by 40% if applied every 6 months)
Routine restorative services-for primary and permanent teeth in children
Dental preventive education
Provide parents/guardians important information-connect families to primary care dentists, provide assistance to enroll in appropriate insurance programs and provide follow-up care information
Referrals for specialty care

Our goal is to find, treat and educate the children most in need of our services and provide access to dental care to under-served areas in Northeast Ohio.  Our average patient has never been to a dentist.  The children we serve typically are not able to access services at a free-standing dental clinic due to lack of transportation and/or financial resources.  Children are prioritized based on dental needs and are welcomed as patients regardless of whether they have Medicaid (SCHIP Healthy Start) coverage.  Although our staff does everything possible to enroll patients in the SCHIP Healthy Start Medicaid program, lack of coverage does not prevent access to dental services.  The goal of our mobile clinic is to complete every child’s treatment plan, place as many sealants as possible, and provide hygiene supplies to every child, along with extensive prevention education.

Perhaps the most rewarding moments for our staff and volunteers are witnessing the increased self-esteem of our patients through the transformation that takes place so often during their time with the dental staff on the RMCM.  We not only address children’s physical needs through dental treatment and education, we try to instill a belief in each child that they are worthy of taking good care of themselves; to brush and floss every day and take individual responsibility for their future dental health.

Our service area is comprised of all communities within a 90 minute travel radius surrounding Cleveland.  We visit schools during the academic year to provide dental service to children ages 3 to 12.  When schools are not in session, we treat children served by local not-for-profit organizations that provide service to children.

We currently partner with more than 40 child care centers, head start, elementary and middle schools, county health departments, residential treatment facilities, and a rural medical clinic that serves the Amish community.  We strive to further and expand our reach into additional areas to help eliminate and reduce access to care.

Since 2010, the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile of Northeast Ohio has helped more than 12,500 children through dental appointments and education while providing over $2 million in dental treatment.  Typically, 35% of our patients do NOT qualify for SCHIP Healthy Start Medicaid.  Most of our patients qualify for the free/reduced school lunch program but do not qualify for SCHIP Healthy Start Medicaid.  These children are in families of the working poor.

Click here to learn more about our Ronald McDonald Care Mobile program in Northeast Ohio.