Mobile Dentist Is Changing Kids’ Lives With Free Check-ups
One of the hardest jobs a parent has is trying to get their kid to brush their teeth, let alone a visit to the dentist. As children, the thought of the dreaded drill grinding away at cavities meant being dragged kicking and screaming into the dentist chair. Those activity books and toys in the waiting room were never a distraction for the terror that lay ahead!
One dentist is hoping to change all that.
Dr. Edwin Smith, born and raised in Appalachia, recognized the need for proper dental health for Appalachian children – the region has the highest rate of childhood dental decay in the nation. He transformed a trailer into a mobile dental clinic and since 2005, has parked his 18-wheeler in front of schools across Kentucky, providing free dental services to those children in need.
For many in rural areas of Kentucky such as Barbourville, the obstacles are transportation, access to a dentist, and money. Smith created the nonprofit, on-the-go Kids First Dental Services where he is out every week waiting in his rig for school to let out, traveling throughout the academic year to remote areas and some of the poorest counties in Kentucky. He’s treated more than 43,000 kids throughout his travels and now been named a “CNN Heroes.”
Greeting each anxious kid with a warm smile as they sit in the truck’s waiting room he says in the video from CNN, “Hi guys, how are you boys today?” They reply, “Scared!” He confidently answers, “Scared?, what are you scared about?”
Smith just goes about his business taking X-rays and providing the children with an exam, cleaning, flouride treatment, and sealants. He then gives them a treatment plan that’s sent home to their parents to further educate them and their families on proper oral hygiene. He proudly says to one girl with her mouth agape, “You don’t have any cavities.”
Smith’s mobile method seems to be working as tooth decay incidents are down.
He told CNN, “When I first started practicing I would see kids with a mouthful of rotting teeth in them, just rampant tooth decay.”
He hopes teaching kids better oral care by coming to them makes them realize the importance of dentistry.
The rewards, Smith says, are in their smiles.