Dr. Alex Otto and her husband, Tim, founded Kids Tooth Team in Buda in September 2020, and even before they owned their private practice, the couple knew they wanted to do charity work and provide free dental assistance to children in need with limited access in rural counties. In 2019, they received their 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization designation for Kids Tooth Team Outreach.

The Ottos got in touch with St. David’s Foundation, which eventually donated one of its mobile dental clinics to the couple, and a collaborative process to properly outfit the van began until the couple received the keys Dec. 8.

“It was something that we thought we would do at some point ... . That it actually became available within our first year of being open in our private practice was just really incredible and came at a really good time because I was seeing a lot of kids in rural communities that would drive over an hour to come to my office and see me,” Alex Otto said.

Lack of access to a dentist or pediatric specialist in more rural parts of Texas was something that Alex was aware of but only became more evident as the practice opened.

“Their mission and vision really aligned with that of St. David’s, which is to provide charity care to underserved children, and the one neat point was that they were going to do it in rural counties that our dental program is not able to serve,” said Shailee Gupta, chief dental officer for St. David’s Foundation.

Caldwell County was a hotspot community that Alex Otto said they would see many kids come from who just barely missed the mark for or could not apply for Medicaid.

The plan for the Kids Tooth Team Outreach mobile dental clinic is to become a school-based dental home and visit the same schools every six to 12 months to provide dental screenings, fill cavities, aid in infections and perform other small operative procedures.

“I think probably 80% of the things that I do in my office, we could do in the van,” Alex Otto said. “There’s going to definitely be children who have full-mouth needs that outweigh what we can do in the van ... the long-term goal would be to have a similar situation to what St. David’s has, that they identify community partners that we can partner with to get these kids seen by dentists in an office [for] anesthesia or sedation services because we won’t be able to do that in the van.”

For now, the couple plans to find an elementary school in Caldwell County that they can do a soft launch on the program and slowly work up to a full-time staff.

“We really do think that our mission is to get out to the rural areas. Studies have shown that the rural areas typically have two times the amount of patients per dentist than urban areas do, which means there’s a tremendous need for it,” Tim Otto said.