Aboard a semi-truck, two dental hygienists spread smiles across Beaufort, Jasper and Hampton counties by improving the oral health care of children through the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile program. Last year, the local nonprofit provided dental exams to over 2,000 children in public schools. They applied sealants, gave fluoride treatments and took X-rays via a dental office built inside of a semi-truck.
Nearly 22 percent of the children in Beaufort, Jasper and Hampton counties live at, or below the poverty level, said Nikole Layton, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Coastal Empire. “Dental health care is considered a luxury.” Daily brushing and flossing keep bacteria under control prevent infections, tooth decay and promotes a health barrier to one’s blood stream, according to an excerpt from The Mayo Clinic’s website.
There are many reasons why oral health care is important, but Layton narrows her concern for children to two primary reasons; oral hygiene and self-esteem. “We feel like we have made an impact in those areas,”she said.
“The dental checkup and service via the Care Mobile is free for children,” said Layton. “We treat them at no charge. When you talk to a parent whose child has gotten treatment when they needed it, it’s humbling because a lot of people take it (dental care) for granted and they are just happy that their child’s teeth were cleaned.”
The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile program is the largest provider of free dental health care to underserved children in Beaufort County. Although it is affiliated with McDonalds, only 15 percent of their annual need comes from the company, the vast majority comes from the community. Each year, Layton needs to raise about $200,000, and she has asked The United Way of the Lowcountry for help this year. So when you give, please keep this important program in mind.