ATLANTA — Kool Smiles, a leading provider of quality dental care in underserved communities nationwide, announced a record amount of free care provided in its offices during the first half of 2012. With approximately $8 million in free dental care and services donated already in 2012, the company is on track to exceed the $14 million provided last year, firmly establishing Kool Smiles as the safety net for dental care in the United States.
"Kool Smiles was founded because we truly believe that every person deserves a dentist, including those without any form of insurance or ability to pay for the services," said Dr. Paul O. Walker, Kool Smiles Vice President for Clinical Quality. "We're proud that by providing free dental care, as well as care to Americans with insurance plans that most dentists reject, we are able to fulfill our mission of providing first-rate dental services to communities that are often overlooked or are otherwise underserved."
Founded in 2002, Kool Smiles operates 130 dental practices across 16 states and the District of Columbia, primarily in underserved communities that have historically lacked sufficient providers for the Medicaid populations. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the primary Federal agency for improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated or medically vulnerable, approximately 80% of dentists do not accept patients with Medicaid or State Children's Health Insurance Plans (SCHIP), citing, among other reasons, low reimbursement for their services. Kool Smiles helps provide a safety net for these patients, with approximately 80% to 90% of its patient population consisting of Medicaid or SCHIP enrollees.
"Although we do accept insurance plans that most dentists reject, we also recognize that there is a significant number of patients who lack any type of coverage whatsoever," said Dr. Walker, "Recognizing that children who go without access to quality dental care can face lifelong struggles and health problems, we feel it is our moral and professional obligation to also donate our services so that every child can have a healthy, happy smile."
According to the Pew Center's 2011 Report on the State of Children's Dental Health, tooth decay is the most common diseases of childhood – five times more common than asthma. For every child without medical insurance, there are nearly three children without dental coverage. The Pew Center's report cites research showing children who do not receive dental care miss a significant number of school days, use costly emergency room services more often, and encounter worsened job prospects as adults, compared with their peers who have access to care.
Guadalupe Segura Mata, a parent of a Kool Smiles patient in Texas, said that the availability of dental care has made a tremendous difference in their lives. "This was the first time I was taking my 4-year-old daughter to a dentist and the service was exceptional. My daughter was in pain and had a hard time eating. It was painful for me too to see her in pain. Thanks to them, she now can eat. I was very worried about being able to pay for the consultation because I don't have insurance coverage but the people at Kool Smiles told me not to worry. I'm very grateful for what they did for my daughter."
With $8 million in free care provided as of June 15, 2012, Kool Smiles expects to exceed their previous record with almost $16 million forecasted through 2012.
For information about Kool Smiles, go to koolsmiles.com.
For related news, visit Kool Smiles PBS.