Background: In 2006 a mobile dental outreach program began operating full-time at the UK North Fork Valley Community Health Center in Hazard, Kentucky, a federally-qualified health center administered by the University of Kentucky and located at the UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health. This program continues to provide preventive dental care to children at forty different elementary schools and Head Start centers in a four county area of southeastern Kentucky located in the heart of rural Appalachia. The counties are Leslie, Knott, Letcher and Perry (LKLP), which are part of the Kentucky River Development District and encompass the LKLP Community Action zone created by the Kentucky General Assembly. The program serves approximately 2,500 children each school year.

Context: Children in eastern Kentucky have the second highest rate of untreated tooth decay in the nation. Over half of the children in Perry County, where the mobile dental program is based, had untreated cavities, and 20 percent had painful dental abscesses when the UK dental outreach team started seeing children in local schools and Head Start centers in 2006.

Objective: Development of a model mobile dental service for children that can be implemented in other rural communities where there are high levels of unmet need.

Design: Comparative analysis of pre/post dental services intervention using data collected by the mobile outreach team.

Setting: Eleven sites in Perry County, a rural Appalachian community.

Participants: Children from underserved families. Intervention: Exams, cleanings, fluoride treatments and referrals through the Eastern Kentucky Ronald McDonald Care Mobile. Main Outcome Measure(s): Improved oral health through the reduction in cavities and abscesses and other other gum disease.

Results: Decay rates reduced by 16 percent and urgent dental needs reduced by 10%.

Conclusions: Mobile dental services can effectively screen and treat children in areas where services are unavailable through public school programs and through private dental practices that are closed to new patients or do not accept Medicaid patients. Mobile dental services are adaptable and can be focused in areas within communities to create access for high risk and underserved families

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A poster presentation at the Kentucky Rural Health Association’s 15th Annual Conference in Bowling Green, KY.

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