Mobile dental unit helps thousands in Bithlo

Patients credit 'Tooth Fairy' for more than $1M in care

By Kirstin O’Connor - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - More than a million dollars in dental care has gone to 2,600 uninsured or underinsured people in a community less than 40 miles from the happiest place on Earth. 

Florida Hospital partnered with several local organizations in April 2012 to bring a mobile dentistry unit to Bithlo, a community with nearly no access to dental facilities. Michelle Lawton, the dental coordinator for Florida Hospital Community Impact, is known as "the tooth fairy" to her neighbors.

"We're able to provide hygiene, fillings, extractions. We're tooth savers, not tooth destroyers, so we want to save every tooth possible, and just really help restore them back to health emotionally and physically," Lawton said.

The dental bus serves patients on a first-come, first-serve basis.

"Many have never been to the dentist, anywhere from 2 years old, which is not, you know, abnormal, to 40 years old," Lawton said. "And if they have been to the dentist it's for an emergency basis only."

Two patients who have received care on the dental bus called the experience "life-changing."

"This bus has made a tremendous difference in this community because of the need. People need this out here," said Elizabeth Atkinson, the first patient to ever be seen on the Bithlo bus.

Another patient, Jacklyn Morris, told News 6 Lawton helped her completely restore her smile which was on the verge of complete decay.

"She's been with me the whole time, and I couldn't have picked a better person to do it. Like, I trust Michelle, like I trust my mom," Morris said. 

"She's my life-saver, she's my tooth fairy, and she changed my life," Atkinson said.

Lawton welcomes anyone in the Bithlo community in need of dental care to call or email her to request an appointment. She can be reached at michelle.lawton@flhosp.org or 407-473-2812.​

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