America’s ToothFairy responds to restricted volunteer opportunities with More Smiles Campaign
“Stacey” was in desperate need of help, but her situation seemed hopeless. With her father in prison and an absentee mother who is addicted to drugs, she lives with her grandmother, Sue. Stacey urgently needed a crown on a deteriorated tooth, but the $1,000 procedure was not covered by her state-funded health plan and cost more than Sue could afford living on Social Security.
Stacey’s dental care provider turned to America’s ToothFairy for help. As a member of their Dental Resource Program, Apple Tree Dental, a nonprofit dental clinic in Mounds View, Minn., can apply for grants to help patients in need of services that cost more than they can afford. When Apple Tree’s director called Sue to tell her the entire cost of the procedure would be paid in full she exclaimed, “Oh my goodness, I have goosebumps! Thank you, thank you!”
“The applications we receive from our member clinics with stories of kids who need help are often heart-wrenching,” said America’s ToothFairy Executive Director Jill Malmgren. “The safety-net clinics that we support have already slashed costs for their patients, but often the critical care they need to restore their oral health is still out of reach for many families, especially now.”
To make matters worse, the nonprofit dental clinics that low-income families rely on for treatment have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus shutdowns. In addition to the steep costs of reopening, reductions to staff, and nearly impossible community outreach, clinics have also experienced an increase in emergency and costly urgent treatment for children who had to delay restorative dental treatment during the early part of the pandemic.
With a backlog of patients (especially at clinics where wait times can be up to one year under normal circumstances) and more parents out of work, the need for more extensive dental treatment is only expected to grow in the coming year.
“With so many clinics struggling to get caught up with patients and a great deal of families delaying dental care, we have the potential for a crisis that will have a profound impact for years to come,” Malmgren added. “These clinics are the dental home for underserved children and their families in their communities, and they need our support now more than ever.”
In response, throughout National Children’s Dental Health Month in February, America’s ToothFairy is running its More Smiles Campaign, an opportunity for dental professionals to give so that kids like Stacey can get the restorative care they urgently need. Proceeds will fund In the Gap grants that support the direct care of pediatric patients from nonprofit dental clinics participating in America’s ToothFairy programs. With COVID guidelines making it harder for dental professionals to donate their time and skills during special charity dental events and limiting the number of patients that can be seen, this campaign provides an option which supports community nonprofit dental providers and helps keep underserved youth out of the emergency room due to dental pain and infections.
Most In the Gap awards range from $500 to $1,000 and benefit kids like Axel, a 7-year-old whose unemployed, single mother couldn’t afford to pay for the extractions of four carious teeth that were causing him considerable pain.
“Patients who need these grants do not have the resources to cover all the expenses associated with the comprehensive services they need,” Malmgren said. “Our In the Gap grants serve as a bridge by overcoming these costs and obstacles to care. Contributing to this program provides an opportunity to give a child life-changing dental care while helping support the work of nonprofit dental clinics serving populations in need.”
When a child receives a grant for treatment, they are provided more than the care they need to relieve pain or embarrassment. They are also connected to a dental home that can give them continuity of care at a reduced cost so they can maintain good oral health into adulthood. The funding also helps nonprofit dental clinics stay afloat during an uncertain economy, to continue improving the health of people living in impoverished and underserved communities for years to come.
Malmgren contends that the More Smiles Campaign is a more efficient way to provide charitable care to low-income children. “Our member clinics stretch the resources they receive to multiply the impact of the donation,” she said. “They often combine donated services and products, and treatments that are partially covered by state-funded dental plans with the resources they receive from grants in order to serve more children than the grant alone could.”
Oftent an inability to pay isn’t the only thing keeping kids from receiving the care they need. Some families lack reliable transportation, face cultural or language barriers, or have other healthcare needs that make getting service from a traditional dental office or charity service day more difficult. Nonprofit dental clinics are uniquely qualified to deal with these issues and can apply In the Gap funding to overcome challenges like transportation.
“We are excited about our More Smiles Campaign and the children who will benefit,” Malmgren added. “We hope that dental professionals who are looking for a way to help will take advantage of this opportunity to restore smiles and push through the challenges of the current state of the world to brighter days ahead.”
More information about the campaign is available at MoreSmilesCampaign.org.
About America’s ToothFairy: National Children’s Oral Health Foundation
As a resource provider, America’s ToothFairy increases access to oral health care by supporting nonprofit clinics and community partners delivering education, prevention and treatment services for underserved children. Since its inception in 2006, America’s ToothFairy has distributed more than $22 million in donated products, educational materials and financial grants to improve oral health outcomes for children and youth in need. For more information, visit AmericasToothFairy.org.
(Source: America’s ToothFairy)
*Stacey’s name has been changed in order to protect her identity.