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Nonprofit, Safety-Net Dental Clinics Witness 27% Surge in Clinical Services for Children

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The clinics experienced an unprecedented surge in support from America’s ToothFairy.

A student receives a dental screening at her school from an Augusta Regional Dental Clinic staff member. The safety-net dental clinic, located in Fishersville, Virginia, reported a 60% increase in new patients after receiving donated resources from America’s ToothFairy. | Image Credit: © America’s ToothFairy

A student receives a dental screening at her school from an Augusta Regional Dental Clinic staff member. The safety-net dental clinic, located in Fishersville, Virginia, reported a 60% increase in new patients after receiving donated resources from America’s ToothFairy. | Image Credit: © America’s ToothFairy

In the United States, millions of children encounter challenges in accessing essential dental services, leading to missed school days, lower academic performance, and limited career prospects in adulthood. But there is good news to report.

This year, nearly 1.3 million children living in communities with restricted access to care nationwide received dental treatment and/or oral health guidance through America’s ToothFairy programs and the affiliated safety-net dental clinics, the resource provider states. The nonprofit organization recently released its 2023 Impact Report, commemorating a landmark year for the value of product donations provided to safety-net dental clinics via their Dental Resource Program (DRP), facilitating a 27% increase in clinical treatment services for children compared to 2022.

"The financial grants and product donations from America's ToothFairy impact our mission by ensuring children have the preventive products they need to prevent decay,” says Sharon Harrell, DDS, Dental Director at FirstHealth Dental Care in Southern Pines, North Carolina, in a press release. “Because our practice consists primarily of children with Medicaid as well as uninsured low-income children, expenses outweigh revenue. America's ToothFairy helps keep us afloat," adds Dr Harrell, one of the 46 DRP members that received donated products in 2023.

“For the nonprofit clinics that depend on our programs, every penny counts,” Jill Malmgren, executive director at America’s ToothFairy, states in the press release. “When they receive donated toothbrushes, toothpaste, preventive products, and supplies to provide restorative treatment, that frees up more resources to expand staffing and clinical hours for kids who often must wait a year or more for a dental appointment. When our members have the resources they need they don’t just repair the damage of poor dental hygiene habits. They provide the dental home kids need to maintain good oral health in the future.”

The challenges hindering children's access to dental care are multifaceted, including a shortage of dental care providers, especially those accepting Medicaid, transportation barriers, and limited oral health awareness. In addition to supplying dental materials, America’s ToothFairy offers complimentary educational resources to enhance outreach efforts by program members. By instilling the importance of oral health in children, these initiatives encourage participation in dental care programs at schools and promote preventive measures against tooth decay through proper home care.

After receiving a superhero-themed education resource kit from America’s ToothFairy, Sophie Parsons, executive director of Augusta Regional Dental Clinic in Fishersville, Virginia reported on the impact the resources had on their outreach efforts.

“They helped us engage the conversation with young patients and their parents during our community events," she says. "As a result, we have welcomed 454 new patients. That represents a 60% increase compared to the same period the year before!”

The Dental Resource Program, made possible by support from Title Sponsor TSC EcoSolutions (TSC), witnessed a surge in participation despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some program members closed their doors permanently after the pandemic, the non-profit organization states.

“Each year since the shutdown we have seen a steady increase in the number of children that have received clinical treatment services, but those numbers are still lower than they were before the pandemic,” Malmgren says. “2023 showed the most improvement since the pandemic but is still less than half the number that received clinical services in 2019.”

Clinic closures, staffing shortages and rising operational costs all factor into to the slow recovery to reach pre-pandemic levels. Amidst these challenges, America’s ToothFairy remains committed to education and prevention initiatives, aiming to equip members with the necessary resources to expand dental care access for children.

“It is absolutely our pleasure to support America’s ToothFairy and their Dental Resource Program,” says TSC’s CEO Matt Sanders, who recently replaced his father and TSC’s founder, Dick Sanders on the organization’s Board of Directors. “At TSC we believe in doing well by doing good. I am excited about the good we will do together in the coming year.”

Malmgren says the younger Sanders has already had an impact on the organization’s success. “We are grateful for the longstanding support of TSC,” she says. “We are thrilled to have Matt on our Board. He hit the ground running and introduced a new way to involve their customers in our mission with Scrap-4-Smiles. Through this special campaign, dental offices can still receive top dollar with their mail-in dental scrap and feel good knowing that a portion of the resale value will be donated to help our mission, over and above TSC’s annual underwriter contribution.”

In addition to TSC, America’s ToothFairy recognized the contributions of SHOFU Dental Corporation, Septodont, SS White, Cosmedent, SmileMakers, Crest, and Colgate, whose collective donations of over 2 million dollars’ worth of dental supplies and equipment significantly enhanced the capacity of DRP members to provide quality dental care to underserved children.

You can find more information on America’s ToothFairy's impact in 2023, at ATKids.org.

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