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Bright and Shiny MOLAARS: Dental Cleanings and Screenings for Migrant Farm Workers

by Caledonia Moore '18

June 4, 2015 was a big day for the Migrant Health Project at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine. In seven hours, four first-year medical students and a pre-medical volunteer coordinated 12 dental cleaning and screening appointments for migrant farm workers at Barton Street Dental in Bradford, VT.

The Migrant Health project is a student-led group at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth that provides mobile medical care and interpreter services to Spanish-speaking migrant farm workers in the Greater Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire. This spring, first-year Geisel students Michael Connerney, Claire Hogue and Caledonia Moore launched MOLAARS, the Migrant Oral Lifestyle Advocacy and Advancement Resource Service, in collaboration with the Dartmouth CO-OP Research Network.

The first MOLAARS initiative involved surveying a subset of the population served by the Migrant Health Project with regard to their oral health satisfaction and knowledge. The preliminary results of this survey indicated that less than half of the respondents had knowledge of best oral health practices and greater than half were not satisfied with their oral health.[1] Phase two of this project was to put together a dental clinic day for farm workers. Dr. Charles Barton, a Bradford dentist whose practice has historically supported the efforts of Migrant Health, partnered with the group once again to make a dental day a reality.

Bi-annually, the Migrant Health Project carries out mobile medical screening clinics on 8-10 farms in the Upper Valley. During clinics this spring, the Migrant Health team signed up 12 farm workers for appointments at Barton Street Dental. On June 4th, 100% of these individuals made it to their appointments.

Throughout the day, the Migrant Health team translated intake forms for patients and served as interpreters for the dental team. The students also coordinated transportation for workers before and during the dental day. The farm owners did a great job collaborating with Migrant Health to make sure everyone with an appointment made it to the clinic on time. By the end of the day, 12 patients had been sent home with new tips for improving and maintaining their oral health along with oral health supplies. For about half of the patients, this was the first dental care they had ever received in their lives.

Over the summer, the now rising second-year Caledonia Moore will carry out an assessment of healthcare priorities and realities among the farm worker population served by Migrant Health. She will also work closely with Barton Street Dental, the Dartmouth CO-OP and the farm workers to secure follow-up dental appointments for those who need them. Overall, the Migrant Health team finished the dental day with renewed enthusiasm for the project and with big dreams for MOLAARS.

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Author's Note:  The Migrant Health Project is grateful to its partners who made the dental day possible. First of all, the group thanks Barton Street Dental and Dr. Barton for opening the doors of its office to our project. Secondly, we thank the Dartmouth CO-OP Research Network for procuring grant funding for the total of all appointment costs. We are especially grateful to the CO-OP’s Deborah Johnson and Melanie Lawrence, without whose enthusiasm and expertise none of this would have been possible. A big thank you to Little Rivers Healthcare and Dr. Stephen Genereaux for their continued dedication to the migrant farm worker population and support of the Migrant Health Project. As always, the group is thankful to be partnered with the Rural Health Scholars at Geisel, whose support funds the Migrant Health Projects operating budget.


  1. These needs have been determined by a preliminary survey developed by the Migrant Health Project in collaboration with the Dartmouth CO-OP Research Network and administered to 17 members of the migrant farm workers in early April 2015.   The results of the survey showed: 1) only half of the workers knew how many times to brush their teeth each day; 2) only three workers currently use dental floss; 3) when the workers do brush their teeth, only a third did for at least two minutes; 4) only a third of the workers knew to floss at least once a day; 5) a third of the workers have had dental pain in the last month; 6) of those with dental pain, pain was rated 2-5 on a 10-point Likert Scale; 7) more than half of the workers indicated they had noticed their gums bleeding; and 8) of those who noticed their gums bleeding, the times noticed ranged from 2 to more than 5 times in the month.