by Paul Rignell
Not every child loves visiting a dentist, but all children should have access to dental care.
This fall, Ronald McDonald House Charities Upper Midwest began its third year of partnering with health agencies across the Twin Cities metro to share basic dental care with children and youth from uninsured and under-insured families.
Sherburne County Public Health has welcomed the program’s Ronald McDonald Care Mobile to park outside the county Government Center once monthly since April 2010.
A dentist, hygienist and dental assistant —all licensed by the state of Minnesota but volunteering their time in the Care Mobile — are ready to greet their scheduled patients from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at any daily stop.
“It’s a great program,” said Tammy Seifert, a public health nurse for Sherburne County. “I think it’s filled a gap that we have had. I would like to see them here once a week.”
The volunteer staff has the time to see and bring brighter smiles to the faces of 10 young patients per clinic on average. Each appointment includes an exam with teeth cleaning, X-rays, sealants and fluoride treatments. “It’s just like going to a regular dental office, what you might do every six to 12 months,” said Gretchen Ambrosier, Care Mobile program director.
Participating dentists have also performed pulpotomies (what Ambrosier described as “baby root canals”) as well as extractions, fillings and crown fittings for patients with greater needs.
Services are open to all patients age 21 and younger (and all pregnant women) who qualify. For other services that the Care Mobile is unequipped to provide, the staff refers patients to other clinics.
A recent Tuesday visit in Elk River for the crew followed a Monday stop outside North Metro Pediatrics in Coon Rapids, and preceded a Wednesday stop at a Lutheran church parking lot in Jordan (where appointments were scheduled by Scott County Public Health).
Sherburne County is as far northwest as the unit has traveled, always steered by one of three volunteer drivers. They have gone as far as Le Sueur County to the southwest, Goodhue County to the southeast and Chisago County to the northeast.
Many may be familiar with the Ronald McDonald House of the Twin Cities, a temporary home on the University of Minnesota’s East Bank for families with children who are battling cancer or other life-threatening illnesses, and require urgent medical care that is available no closer than at a metro-area hospital.
Traditionally, that housing is available only for families living more than 60 miles away from the campus, or beyond all corners of the area receiving dental service through the Care Mobile program.
“This was a way to give back locally,” Ambrosier said of the outreach to families living both near and far from Minneapolis. Through nine months in 2010, that included $44,444 in dental services for 122 patients in Sherburne County, Seifert told the Star News, out of an estimated $855,000 in services for more than 2,000 patients region-wide.
Major program sponsors include Delta Dental of Minnesota, Ecolab and McDonald’s. The program has also been funded through grants from the Minnesota Dental Foundation and through sales of the Cities 97 Sampler annual studio music recording. Coca-Cola provides permanent parking for the Care Mobile at a facility in Eagan. The program does bill for patients receiving Medical Assistance.
The Care Mobile’s schedule never runs earlier than Monday or later than Wednesday. “We want to be out more,” Ambrosier said. “We’d like to add a fourth day. We need more funding.”
The program welcomes funds from individual contributors but is also always in need of toothbrushes, dental floss and small tubes of toothpaste (each patient leaves the Care Mobile with a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss). Donations of non-latex gloves are accepted for use by the volunteer staff.
Families wondering if they might qualify for service through the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile may call Sherburne County Health and Human Services at 763-765-4000. For more about the Care Mobile, call 612-767-2790 or visit rmhc-um.org/care_mobile.html.