Parked outside Hawthorn Elementary School in Camdenton Tuesday sat a rather indiscriminate RV. But where visitors would normally see a small kitchen and living room, two dental chairs, dental equipment and a waiting room fill the space.
The Miles for Smiles mobile dental unit packs an entire dental office into a small space, and serves those who would probably not see the inside of a dentist's office normally. Dr. Daniel Vogl and two assistants perform dental work for uninsured children or children on Medicaid.
The unit serves 12 southwest Missouri counties, including Camden County. The program started through the Barceda Families Program in Bolivar, which addresses child abuse and neglect issues in the Missouri Ozarks. When the Barceda program noticed a lack in dental services for low-income families in the area, they applied for and received a grant to fund the Miles for Smiles unit.
According to Sue Blankenship, Director of Health Services for the Camdenton School District, the mobile unit will visit the district eight times between March and April, visiting various schools, including the outlying elementary schools in Sunrise Beach and Osage Beach.
Blankenship shuttled children to and from Miles for Smiles — four new patients every 20 minutes, she said.
The Miles for Smiles unit performs a wide array of dental work — everything from standard examinations and cleanings to extractions, crowns, pulpotomy and X-rays.
Blankenship stressed the importance of the visit for some of the children serviced by Vogl and his team.
"These kids wouldn't get dental care without Miles for Smiles," she said. "Some children's parents can't leave work to take them to the dentist."
The unit has visited the Camdenton School District for three years. Parents make appointments for their children directly through the Miles for Smiles program.