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Mobile Dental Unit Aims to Give Ohio Kids Healthier Mouths

CUDA: More than 50 percent of first graders and 80 percent of 17 year olds have untreated cavities in their teeth. In fact, tooth decay is one of the most common chronic diseases in America.

HAYES: It's more prevalent than asthma - five times more prevalent than asthma, 7 times more prevalent than hayfever. I mean, its just outrageous how prevalent dental decay is.

CUDA: Nadine Hayes is the Clinical Manager of the new Ronald McDonald Care Mobile - a 40 foot long trailer that serves as a dentist's office on wheels. The Care mobile was unveiled last week and is the first in Ohio. A full time staff of pediatric dentists, dental residents and dental assistants will take dentistry on the road to schools in the Northeast Ohio Area, and provide on-site dental care to impoverished children 3-6 years of age. Dental assistant Sarah Ashton gives me a tour.

CUDA: It's like a little dentist's office

ASHTON: Yes it is, it's supposed to be just like a dentists office. It's equipped with most everything a normal dentists office would have - we have flat screen tv's, they come with noise cancelling headphones so the kids can have something to keep their mind off of what's going on around them - everything works the exact same way a normal dentist office would function- just smaller scale, you know, for smaller patients...

CUDA: An assortment of DVD's to watch during appointments and a toy to take home is also part of the plan to make going to the dentist more fun ...

ASHTON: That's our whole goal is to make it so it's not a horrible experience to go to the dentist. We wanted to make it so the kids want to come back and they want to have a healthy mouth.

CUDA: Starting the kids at a young age is important says Nadine Hayes, because small problems now can become big problems later.

HAYES: The infections in the mouth - they affect the adult teeth. So it's not just - "oh it's just baby teeth, they'll fall out" - it will affect them clear into their adulthood.

CUDA: In fact, Hayes says dental problems can lead to a variety of health problems later in life, and infections in parents can be passed on to their children

HAYES: Just by kissing and things like that - it's all passed on. Interesting huh?
CUDA: Yeah.
HAYES: So we are looking to stop that cycle. We even have a teen pregnancy clinic where we try to get the teen moms, their mouth healthy. It's amazing what the mouth affects.

CUDA: Hayes says the Care Mobile will go to any school that wants them to come, and all services are completely free of charge to any child that needs them. Gretchen Cuda, 90.3.