For families struggling to make ends meet during a challenging economic climate, routine dental care may seem like a luxury that is out of their reach. More low-income families can access the dental care they need to be healthy through nonprofit dental clinics in their communities. Unfortunately, rising inflation also affects the safety-net clinics they rely on, limiting the number of families they can serve on budgets that are stretched thin to begin with.
In North Philadelphia where Community Oral Health Initiatives (COHI) provides services, 40% of people live in poverty. Most are racial and ethnic minorities that lack transportation or simply cannot afford to take time away from work to take their child for routine dental care. The result is often families that, due to cost, seek dental care for the first time when their child is in intense pain. At this point, the infection is severe and can become deadly.
“I’m moved and saddened,” said Jean Rath, COHI’s Program Director, “by the number of families calling. They’re desperate to find access to emergency dental care for their child.”
She recalled a mother who arrived unscheduled at their mobile clinic crying and pleading for her young daughter, Mila, to see a dentist. Turned away by other providers, Mila was in severe pain and had several dental abscesses. The staff at COHI immediately provided her with acute care and scheduled the necessary appointments for full restoration and health. She was treated and given a dental home, at no charge to her family. Mila’s mom tearfully thanked the dental team over and over again.
As a member of the Dental Resource Program of America’s ToothFairy, COHI qualifies for free resources including donated dental supplies and equipment to help them stretch their budget and serve more children.
America’s ToothFairy believes that nonprofit dental clinics are the best way to ensure that all families can access the dental home their children need to treat dental disease and prevent tooth decay from happening in the first place. The organization was founded with the idea that safety-net clinics can break the cycle of poor oral health in low-income and underserved areas with support from the dental community.
“Unfortunately, for communities with high poverty rates or a shortage of affordable dental care providers, safety-net clinics can struggle to keep up with demand,” said Jill Malmgren, executive director of America’s ToothFairy. “Children who live in these communities often wait a year or longer to get an appointment, leading to more costly treatment.”
To increase access to dental care, America’s ToothFairy leverages its partnerships with major dental companies to provide donated supplies so that nonprofit dental clinics can stretch their budgets and serve more kids than they could alone. Since 2006 their members have provided dental services to more than eight million children and teens in under-resourced communities nationwide.
In the last year the organization has distributed nearly $1,880,000 in donated products, including a generous donation worth more than $1 million from SS White Dental that provided dental burs to 55 clinics across the country, including COHI.
“Donations from America’s ToothFairy provide the material resources needed to care for patients like Mila,” Rath added. “These donations reduce cost for our program, so we do not have to reduce care. America’s ToothFairy aids our ability to reach the community’s most vulnerable children in need who would otherwise go untreated.”
“For clinics that contend with the low reimbursement rates of state-funded dental insurance or that provide care for kids who have no dental coverage, every penny in the budget counts,” Malmgren said. “Donated supplies like the carbide burs from SS White free up resources so our members can serve more kids and shorten wait times. We are so thankful to have them as a partner to help more kids get the dental care they need to be healthy.”
“We are proud to support America’s ToothFairy and their mission to increase access to dental care for underserved children,” said Tom Gallop, Chief Executive Officer of SS White. “We strive to change the shape of dentistry every day, and that includes making sure that children and teens in need can receive critical dental care and resources to improve their oral health.”
For more information about donating dental products and equipment or office supplies to the nonprofit dental care providers served by America’s ToothFairy, visit AmericasToothFairy.org/donate-a-product.