Going The Extra Mile For A Smile

SerSmile 3ving the needs of all children is the goal of the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, operated by the Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida. Case in point, eight-year-old Luis is a profoundly deaf child who was transported to the Care Mobile by a home/school liaison for migrant children in Immokalee.

Luis was initially seen by dentists at Healthcare Network’s Marion E. Fether and the University of Florida clinics, but because of financial difficulty (no insurance) and the extent of his treatment plan, the Healthcare Network started caring for him aboard its Care Mobile.

SmileA sign language interpreter was required for all of Luis’s visits and at first, he needed extra time and TLC because of his fear of dentists. During his first exam on the Care Mobile, he was frightened but cooperative. While receiving restorative services under local anesthesia, he cried but remained still for treatment.

Luis’s reaction touched the heart of Dr. Kelley Johnson, Chief Dental Officer for the Healthcare Network, who saw opportunity to help him address his fears and avoid a lifetime of anxiety regarding dental visits. Using her home computer and on-line clip art, Dr. Johnson made a kid-friendly picture book of dental equipment and procedures using cartoon images relating to the tactile feelings associated with dental treatment; like a mosquito bite for the anesthetic injection and an image of a tooth in a shower for the hand piece that removes decay.

The personalized book also included information on healthy food choices and oral hygiene instructions. In addition to the one used on the Care Mobile, Dr. Johnson made a copy of the book for Luis’s parents and one for the school interpreter to help prepare him for dental visits.

Smile 2By going the extra mile, Dr. Johnson helped change Luis’s life. During following visits, he would smile and give staff high fives when boarding the Care Mobile. More recently, he participated in the Oral Health America Sealant program aboard the Care Mobile at his elementary school and thanks to Dr. Johnson’s dental book, he was already familiar with the procedures and will benefit from a future with less fear of dental visits. Dr. Johnson’s commitment to go beyond traditional services to meet the needs of her patients is just one reason she was selected as the 2013 Oral Health Science Education Award recipient by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR).

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