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ARTICLE Mary's Center High-Tech Mobile Dental Cruiser

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) states that tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease nationwide, yet it is often prevented by routine brushing, flossing and regular dental visits. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about half of all children and two-thirds of adolescents aged 12-19 years from lower income families experience decay.

A 2011 report from The PEW Charitable Trusts states that more than half of all children on Medicaid received no dental service in 2009. With the shortage of dentists who treat children receiving Medicaid, there are approximately 1,428 children per dentist in Maryland. United Health Foundation is helping to make a difference in the state by increasing access to dental care and creating healthy smiles for children in Prince George's County.

To promote early detection, education, prevention and treatment, Mary's Center, sponsored by the United Health Foundation, has launched the Mary's Center Mobile Dental Cruiser. This state-of-the-art solution to dental health provides three fully operational dental chairs, two dental X-ray units, a self-contained sterilization area and multiple monitors for patient education in a 38-foot mobile dental clinic. The cruiser is staffed with a fulltime dentist, hygienist and two dental assistants.

Mary's Center Mobile Dental Cruiser is expected to provide service to approximately 4,000 children in its first year at an average of approximately 350 per month.

The mission of the bus is to give children of Prince George's County access to dental care. It also provides an opportunity for parents to enroll their children in a dental care program while learning about affordable dental insurance options. Insurance will be billed for children who have dental coverage; otherwise, services are free and no child is turned away.

With the holidays quickly approaching, extra sweets and treats will be in abundance. Halloween and the holiday eating season is the perfect time to build awareness about the importance of good oral hygiene and establishing a relationship with a dentist. Families, especially children, can learn that a trip to the dentist's office does not have to be scary.

The Mary's Center Mobile Dental Cruiser is an example of how innovation can improve health care quality, convenience and accessibility, which supports the UnitedHealthcare mission of helping people live healthier lives.