|May, 07 2012 By Mary Daly
Merrill is a small town located in Klamath County, 16 miles south of Klamath Falls. With not a single signal light in the whole town, a walk down the main road equaling less than a mile, and having to drive south crossing the California border to find dinner for the evening, you can imagine that a dentist is hard to find in this town. For this reason, Merrill Elementary School was very excited to bring dental services to their students with a visit from the Tooth Taxi. We not only had beautiful, sunny, warm weather in Merrill, but we received the same warm welcoming from the Merrill Elementary. Principal Larita Ongman and secretary Terri Robinette showed an admirable love for their students, as well as the rest of the faculty at Merrill Elementary. Principal Ongman drove the Tooth Taxi Team to screen students at Malin Elementary and Lost River High School as well, which are located even further from Klamath Falls (nearest town for dental services), respectively 5 miles and 10 miles south of Merrill, making their access to dental services even more challenging. Principal Ongman is the principal of both the elementary schools and provided transportation for the students in Malin and Lost River to receive services with the Tooth Taxi. She shows her dedication to her community not only as principal but as well as being a volunteer medic in Merrill and Malin, volunteering over 500 hours a year of her time.
Samantha Tipler, reporter from Klamath Falls Herald and News visited the Tooth Taxi in Merrill to learn about the services we provide. Read the article.
Lyle Ahrens, news anchor/reporter from NBC KOTI TV based out of Klamath Falls, visited as well to cover our visit. The Tooth Taxi report was on later that night on the local evening news. Dr. McLeod and assistant Chanel Kim were interviewed on the need that is seen in the community as well as the excitement that the students have about being on the Tooth Taxi.
From the kid gallery:
"Well, did you know we only have 2 sets of teeth and our adult teeth are the last set we get! Unlike sharks that get them again and again and again." -1ST GRADER!
"It tickles like heck," a second grader receiving a cleaning
"I need to take some pictures on the other side." –Catherine taking bite wings
"But there isn't anything over there!!" –kindergartner
"Don't make me laugh too much or I won't be able to breathe." – 1st grader while in treatment
Realities from the road:
One student recently had a tooth extracted in Klamath Falls prior to our arrival and had been complaining of some pain. We screened the student and took x-rays on the extracted area. From what appeared on the x-rays and the symptoms the student had presented, Dr. McLeod concluded that the student had a small sinus exposure and prescribed medication to help with the infection and the congestion. If the Tooth Taxi had not been at Merrill this week, this infection could have rapidly escalated into a more severe situation for this student. Although the nearest dentist to the kids living in Merrill is only 16 miles away in Klamath Falls, sometimes this care is hard to access due to transportation, getting time off work, or simply being uneducated about the situation.
60% of students screened needed treatment
40% needed no treatment.
Merrill Elementary School, Merrill, May 7-May 10,2012
•48 students screened
•130 students received oral hygiene education in the classroom
•23 appointments in the van
•$12,802 value of free dental services provided.
Tooth Taxi, September 4, 2008 – May 10, 2012
•11,494 students screened
•10,873 students received oral hygiene education in the classroom
•5,049 students treated in the van
•$3,063,776 value of free dental services provided.