A dentist office on wheels

David Wilson, Appeal-Democrat, Marysville, Calif.
·3 min read

Mar. 30—Ashly Anderson moved to the Yuba-Sutter area recently and for the last few months has been struggling to find a dentist for her two children, Scarlett and Nylah. On Monday, Anderson drove her four-year-old and one-year-old through the Cedar Lane School parking lot during the Smiles for Miles event that provided dental health services through Marysville Joint Unified School District's Toothmobile — a dentist office on wheels.

"We've been having a little bit of a hard time finding a dentist through COVID, so it was a perfect opportunity because my little one has never been seen and my older one, she has a problem with dentists, so it's been hard to find one she's willing to work with," Anderson said. "But as you just saw they're perfect."

Dr. Rupaul Ghuman is a dentist with Peach Tree Health who works full-time in the district's Toothmobile. Ghuman had a station set up at the end of the drive-through event at Cedar Lane on Monday, along with registered dental hygienist Sharon Ghuman, patient care coordinator Reyna Garcia and registered dental assistant Taylor Frazier.

Cars entered the parking lot and were give goodies from partner organizations such as Peach Tree Health, First5 Yuba County, Yuba County Public Health, the Yuba County Sheriff's Office, the Linda Fire Department, Yuba County Probation and Bikers Against Child Abuse.

When a car reached the end of the drive through, the Toothmobile team conducted a dental screening for each child in the car and then applied a fluoride varnish to their teeth. Ghuman said the varnish is a good tooth-decay preventative measure.

"It's really thick and it sticks onto their teeth so it kind of uptakes into the teeth and helps prevent cavities," Ghuman said.

Water provided by cities in Yuba County does not contain fluoride, according to Ghuman.

"That's a big factor in this community," Ghuman said. "The lack of fluoride in the water here puts all of the kids at higher risk for cavities. That's one of the biggest hurdles we have in keeping the kids healthy."

He said the varnish will protect teeth for several weeks, and combined with maintaining dental hygiene — through brushing and flossing — it will keep fluoride levels high.

Pre-pandemic, the Toothmobile would spend 6-8 weeks at a school site providing dental health services to kids during school and scheduled appointments after school. The mobile dentist office would then move to another school site and continue rotating.

"It sort of eliminates the transportation barrier for families," said Ronda Bowers, dental coordinator for Marysville Joint Unified School District.

Bowers said the Toothmobile was made possible through a grant from First5 Yuba County. Because of a lack of dentists in Yuba County the money was used to create a mobile dental clinic, according to Bowers.

"There's not much access to dental, especially children's dental," Bowers said.

The Toothmobile serves those 0-19 and offers full-service dentistry from exams, cleanings, fluoride varnish and sealants to baby root canals, fillings and extractions.

The clinic is free, but the pandemic has changed how they see patients. Ghuman said the Toothmobile has been at Cedar Lane during the pandemic because it is in the middle of its patient base. Without students being in school, they have only been taking appointments. The goal of Monday's event was to help expand its reach and hopefully get the word out to more parents.

"A lot of people have a misconception that we just do exams and maybe cleanings, but we do quite a bit more than that," Ghuman said.