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Crowdfunding efforts underway for new mobile dental van

UTSD's mobile dental van.
Donated to UTSD, the mobile dental van has provided care to underserved communities since 2002.

UTHealth School of Dentistry at Houston has launched a crowdfunding campaign for a new mobile dental van. Donations can be made at

The campaign, which runs through Dec. 31, has currently raised over $18,400. The goal is $30,000.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Health Charities donated the original van to the dental school in 2002 to provide care to underserved communities. UTSD staffs and operates the van, and services and expenses are funded by income from grants and contracts.

Since its inaugural trip, the van has logged over 107,000 miles to treat patients ranging from the Greater Houston area to as far as rural communities in East Texas.

“We will be forever grateful for all the care we’ve been able to provide in our current van, but after 18-plus years, the time has finally come to purchase a new one,” said Margo Melchor, RDH, EdD, director of community outreach. “A new van will allow our community outreach program to continue to deliver exceptional care for patients and provide further educational opportunities for our students in a setting that adequately mirrors a clinical environment.”

An estimated $1.1 million in free care and over 8,700 procedures have been provided through this outreach initiative since 2015.

The dental van is a three-week rotation fourth-year dental students may be assigned to as part of their clinical education and is one Debra Stewart, DDS, dental van clinical coordinator, calls a “Learning-through-community-service opportunity.”

During the 2019-20 academic year, the dental van team completed more than 3,000 treatments at no cost to nearly 400 patients in rural East Texas.

Student-provided treatments included:

  • Exams;
  • Cleanings;
  • Oral hygiene instructions;
  • Deep cleanings – root planing and scaling;
  • Restorative procedures and fillings;
  • Extractions.

In addition, several root canal procedures were performed, and interim partial dentures were fitted for patients.

The dental van is part of UTSD’s vision of improving oral health to improve overall health. Gifts towards the purchase of a new van will support community outreach efforts for years to come.

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