Johnston schools are all smiles for the Molar Express


Most kids love McDonald’s, but it’s parents who are likely thrilled that the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, also known as the Molar Express, is taking over Johnston.

Next Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 12 and 13, the Molar Express – a 40-foot long, 8-foot wide, state-of-the-art vehicle built specifically for delivering pediatric health care services – will be set up in the Thornton Elementary School parking lot.

“Health care is a right we all should have,” said Mayor Joseph Polisena last Thursday evening from inside the Molar Express. “When Tara Pratt first approached me with the idea, I jumped at it. This is an excellent opportunity for the youth of our town. This program will be both healthy and educational. Some children, in fact, don’t know what dental service is.”

The Molar Express provides comprehensive dental services to youth and young adults ages 2 to 21 in local communities at no out-of-pocket cost to families. The Molar Express is operated by a coalition of Rhode Island health and human service agencies, which includes Comprehensive Community Action Program (CCAP), East Bay Community Action Program (EBCAP) and Thundermist Health Center.

Pratt, who brought the Molar Express concept to Johnston, is CCAP’s dental manager.

“I gave Tara a warm welcome,” Polisena said as he sat in one of the dental chairs inside the Molar Express. “The Molar Express is welcome in this town any time. In fact, once we get our schoolchildren involved in this great program, we’re going to take care of our senior citizens.”

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Dr. Arthur Petrosonelli and School Committee member Robert LaFazia accompanied Polisena during a tour of the bus.

“This program is very important for all our schoolchildren,” Polisena said. “These people may discover something that’s going on with a child and without such a vehicle, that child could be in danger.”

No children will have to miss school to take advantage of the dental services, as the Molar Express will be visiting the schools directly.

Pratt stressed how important good dental hygiene is for children.

“People may be surprised to learn that tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease today, five times more than asthma,” she said. “Because many children are not receiving the dental care they need, including preventative care, the Molar Express delivers oral health services.”

Dr. Fred James and Dr. David Mastrostephano are the dentists that will see children in the Molar Express while it’s at the Thornton School.

The Molar Express will operate from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. next Tuesday and Wednesday and is part of CCAP’s WestBay Smiles dental program. Alexis Johnson is the Smiles coordinator.

WestBay Smiles provides in-school dental services to children with parental consent. The program also provides in-school dental services including examinations, cleanings, fluoride treatments, sealants and education on proper oral hygiene.

If a family has dental insurance, WestBay Smiles will bill the insurance company directly. WestBay Smiles does not charge any co-payment and services are at no cost if a person does not have insurance.

If a child needs follow-up restorative treatment such as fillings, the Molar Express will refer parents to the Tri-Town Community Action Agency, which also provides dental services to children.

If a person wants their child to receive services, he or she should fill out, sign and return the pink packet that will soon be distributed to all students. For more information, call WestBay Smiles at 427-4080.


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