Delta Dental promotes oral health access

Nov. 24, 2010
Company donates $40 million to the cause.

OAK BROOK, Illinois--Six-year-old boys don’t typically ask to be given a shot. In fact, the will do just about anything to keep away from a nurse’s needle.

So, when a Milwaukee, Wis., second grader asked Pam Prenger, a dental hygienist who was visiting his school, to please give him a shot for pain, it got her attention.

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“In all my years of working in dentistry, no child had ever before asked for a shot. I knew then that this child was in serious pain,” said Prenger.

The boy had been moved through several foster homes and was suffering the painful consequences of neglected tooth decay which, according to the Centers for Disease Control, remains the most common chronic disease of childhood.

Through Smart Smiles, a program that sends dental hygienists and assistants into schools, caring school personnel, and a partnering community dental clinic, the boy received the care he needed.

Programs like this are filling a gap throughout the country by providing oral health care to the uninsured, and Delta Dental member companies is providing resources to help meet the needs. Delta Dental’s 39 member companies donated more than $40 million in 2009 to support community benefit initiatives that advance and promote oral health.

“At a time when the nation is grappling with ways to expand access to health care coverage, Delta Dental companies are making it possible for uninsured and low-income Americans to access oral health care,” said Kim E. Volk, president and CEO of Delta Dental Plans Association.

“By financially supporting school-based, community, and mobile dental clinics, we are helping fight dental disease while advancing our belief that everyone deserves good oral health.”

Delta Dental companies and their affiliated foundations work actively within their communities to create and support programs that focus on expanding access to care for the uninsured and underinsured. This helps alleviate the nation’s growing dentist shortage, helps prevent dental disease, and advances dental science.

Expanding access to care and prevention for all
Recent reports indicate that the number of Americans covered by some form of dental benefits decreased by about 10 million in 2009, leaving roughly 140 million Americans with no dental coverage. While health care reform promises to alleviate much of the coverage problem for uninsured children, it does nothing to increase dental coverage for adults.

In 2009, Delta Dental member companies donated more than $12 million in support of 132 programs and events treating children and adults and 55 programs and events focusing on prevention.

For example, eight member companies donated a total of $460,000 to sponsor statewide Mission of Mercy events, which are typically two-day dental clinics that treat uninsured adults and children free of charge.

According to the America’s Dentists Care Foundation, in the past ten years, more than 100,000 people have received nearly $50 million worth of free care through Mission of Mercy events. Delta Dental was proud to support these missions in Arkansas, Connecticut, Iowa, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Give Kids a Smile is a similar program that specifically targets children. Last year, Delta Dental companies donated more than $111,000 to help provide free, comprehensive dental care to children through Give Kids a Smile and another $1.7 million to support programs that provide screenings, dental sealants, and fluoride applications.

Alleviating the nation’s growing dentist shortage
An estimated 49 million Americans are living in identified Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas, and 9,642 additional dentists are needed to fill this gap in care. To address this problem, Delta Dental member companies last year contributed $2,145,000 in loan repayment programs and fellowships aimed at encouraging dentists to practice in shortage areas. Another $12.7 million was invested in dental education through direct donations to schools and scholarships.

These are just a few examples of what Delta Dental’s member companies are doing to improve oral health in their communities.

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