A Brighter Way for dental health for Arizona youth

Healthy teeth are an important part of overall health for young people. However, accessing dental care is not a level playing field for all children.

Kids from low-income households are twice as likely to have tooth decay in their permanent teeth than those from high-income households. In the Phoenix area, Brighter Way Institute is committed to improving this by creating more accessible and reliable dental care, with an approach centered around the patient. 

Through its mobile dental center, Brighter Way Institute comes to kids where they are — visiting schools, community health fairs and Boys & Girls Clubs across the Phoenix area. A donation from UnitedHealthcare helped bring this bus to life and continues to support its mission, helping to create thousands of appointments where children may not have otherwise been served.

“Tooth Bus has been the foundation for Brighter Way’s community growth. Tooth Bus serves individuals through remote access, including children, adults, LGBTQ youth, and families. We are proud to be partnering with UnitedHealthcare,” said Dr. Kris Volcheck, Founding CEO of Brighter Way.

To engage the local community, a contest asked children in the area to help name the mobile unit. Renamed the “Tooth Bus,” the refreshed dental center was recently unveiled at a community oral health and ribbon cutting event at the Bob & Renee Parsons Branch of Boys & Girls Club in Phoenix.

“This is not only a health center on wheels but also an outreach and education vehicle, raising awareness about the connection between dental health and overall physical and mental health,” said Jean Kalbacher, chief executive officer of the UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Arizona. “And we know how important whole person care is to each individual regardless of age, gender, race or where they live.” 

In partnership with Boys & Girls Club of the Valley, the Tooth Bus made its way to all 27 area clubs in 2023 to conduct oral health assessments and help develop treatment plans. Through a long-standing partnership with Boys & Girls Club, young patients can receive oral health and nutritional education.

This includes:

  • Providing health and nutrition education impacting oral health
  • Explaining proper dental hygiene practices and techniques for brushing and flossing
  • Emphasizing the need for routine dental visits, check-ups, and cleanings
  • Distributing Smile Bags with a toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss

“The adoption of a healthy lifestyle is a core component of the types of programs we offer,” said Marcia Mintz, President and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley. “The Tooth Bus gives these kids access to dental care that they might not have otherwise had by removing barriers like transportation and fees.  It also demonstrates through action the importance of caring for one’s oral health at an early age.” 

With UnitedHealthcare’s long-term investment, Brighter Way Institute and the Tooth Bus are able to help maintain healthy smiles and a healthier overall lifestyle for thousands of kids who depend on it. 

Sign up to get the latest news from the UnitedHealthcare Newsroom