Twenty elementary students at Blackburn Elementary School happily lined up Monday in Independence for the grand opening of the Truman Medical Center Lakewood Mobile Dental Bus.
By JAY THOMAS MUNSON
Special to The Star
This bus stretches 40 feet long by 13 feet across. It houses one X-ray machine with direct feed into a laptop, two full dental chairs equipped with flat screen televisions and ear phones, and even a waiting room.
“This is a rock-star tour bus crossed with a recreational vehicle, and equipped for dental services,” said Shane Kovac, public relations and marketing manager for Truman Medical Centers.
Since October 2011, parents and teachers in the Independence School District have been working together to improve dental care for their students. The idea for mobile dental care came from the alarming realization made by school officials that a significant number of their elementary students lacked the availability to get basic dental care.
The school district has a longstanding relationship with Truman Medical Center Lakewood, and called on the hospital for assistance. TMC Lakewood responded strongly by forming a dental team consisting of several mobile dental units — dentists and hygienists — and creating an educational program to teach students proper hygiene and preventive protection methods.
Since 2011, TMC Lakewood’s dental team has screened more than 6,000 students, said Nancy Lewis, spokeswoman for the Independence School District. School leaders are hoping the bus will allow even more Independence district students to be served.
Costing nearly $500,000 and custom built to provide basic dental needs, the Mobile Dental Bus will make it even easier to serve students. The equipment is always at the ready.
“TMC Lakewood Auxiliary holds an event each summer called Evening Under the Stars, and the proceeds from 2012 and 2013 went specifically towards this bus,” Kovac said.
Independence School Superintendent Dale Herl said the bus “will take student dental health care to a new level in our district.”
“It removed many of the barriers that might keep students from seeing a dentist and could affect our students’ dental health care for years to come,” Herl said.
The district has 16 elementary schools, and “by the end of the school year, the mobile TMC Lakewood dental team expects to have visited all 16 elementary schools,” Kovac said.