Free Dental Care Is Provided By The Tooth Taxi In Oregon

Tooth Taxi: Kihanna, aged eight, waited quietly as the dentist worked inside her mouth while seated in a dental chair in the front of a converted RV, surrounded by various pieces of equipment and walls painted with cartoon animals.

Kihanna did not show any signs of anxiety, with the exception of a brief moment of discomfort during the Novocaine injection. Although she hasn’t had much experience with dentists, this wasn’t her first time riding the Tooth Taxi.

Free Dental Care Is Provided By The Tooth Taxi In Oregon

The Tooth Taxi is a mobile dental clinic operated by the Dental Foundation of Oregon that gives free dental care to low-income areas. From Baker City to Brookings, the mobile dental clinic travels to the state of Oregon every year to remove any financial barriers to dental care. The 2022 Season of Sharing holiday fundraising campaign hosted by The Oregonian and OregonLive will donate to the foundation.

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In the last week of October, the Tooth Taxi was parked in the Community Transitional School parking lot in Northeast Portland, with dentist Dr. Jacob Goertz on hand. While the Dental Foundation of Oregon searches for a permanent dentist to staff the Tooth Taxi, Goertz is familiar with the program thanks to his contracting work with the organization. He spent over a year in the van driving around Oregon with his dentistry practice ten years ago, he added.

When given the chance, “I kind of leaped on it because I love the Tooth Taxi,” Goertz remarked. “Many children go about their days with untreated decay and cavities because, if dental care isn’t made available to them, they simply won’t get it.”

Give to the Season of Sharing’s General Fund or the Oregon Dental Foundation.

In 2006, a group of dentists who also served on the board of the Dental Foundation of Oregon conceived the idea that would become the Tooth Taxi. The foundation’s current executive director, Amber Fowler, has claimed that the Tooth Taxi is the primary means through which the organization fulfills its objective to provide access to oral health education, care, and resources for children and underserved areas across the state.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tooth Taxi reportedly made $271,811 in service deliveries between 2020 and 2021, including 637 individual appointments and 506 dental cleanings. In 2019, it plans to expand its efforts.

The Oregon Dental Association’s philanthropic arm, the Dental Foundation of Oregon, was established in 1982, making it older than the Tooth Taxi. As of their most recent tax return, the foundation claimed approximately $4.7 million in assets, the vast majority of which are held in an endowment fund but are still insufficient to fully fund the organization’s needs.

Donations and grants accounted for the bulk of the foundation’s over $600,000 in revenue that year. According to its tax returns, Fowler is the only full-time employee, with the rest of the staff being unpaid volunteers and independent contractors.

Fowler stated that the majority of the current foundation funding was being allocated to the construction of a new Tooth Taxi to replace the aging RV. Inflation and supply chain concerns have added to the already considerable expense of constructing the new mobile dental office, called the Tooth Taxi 2.0.

Free Dental Care Is Provided By The Tooth Taxi In Oregon
Free Dental Care Is Provided By The Tooth Taxi In Oregon

The current Tooth Taxi will continue to see patients like Kihanna, who had two cavities for Goertz to fill until the new one is completed. He explained that one was on an eminently expendable baby tooth and the other was on a permanent tooth that would benefit from being filled.

Kihanna shrugged and looked back up at the ceiling TV.

With no time to waste, Goertz and his dental assistant, Carrie Peterson, got to work. Like any other dental office, albeit mobile, they have all the necessary tools and medical equipment. After that, they sat Kihanna up and gave her a box of different little toys to choose from. Kihanna, who was wearing a brand-new purple fairy ring, said she appreciated the convenience of taking the Tooth Taxi whenever she could.

She smiled brightly and remarked, “It’s fun because they correct your teeth so nothing is wrong.” She loves sushi, but she doesn’t have to worry about her teeth hurting because she takes good care of them.

Although not every child is as calm as Kihanna was in the dental chair, the staff at Tooth Taxi does their best to make each visit as enjoyable as possible.

Even if they’re having a hard time, “we always try to be happy and hopeful about their experience,” Goertz added. Whether or not the children you serve realize its significance at the moment, “it’s something extremely fulfilling to be able to work and have that consequence.”

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The impact of your contribution

  • $25: The Tooth Taxi will distribute five dental hygiene kits (toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss) to young people between the ages of five and eighteen.
  • One kid between the ages of 5 and 18 who uses the Tooth Taxi will receive an oral health care kit (toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss) and a dental exam and cleaning for $50.
  • Toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental floss are provided to each student who participates in the program, and a member of the Tooth Taxi dental team provides in-class oral health education for a classroom’s worth of pupils for $100.

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