During the 26 years that Dr. Sharon Harrell served as the inaugural Dental Director of FirstHealth Dental Care in Southern Pines, North Carolina, she found that every parent cares about their child's health, regardless of their income level.
"I've always known that access to care was an issue," she said. "But since opening our clinics here, when patients come from so many surrounding counties, I've just seen how difficult it is for parents to find providers in their own communities."
It is critical for kids to have a dental home in order to instill consistent preventive habits and help them have healthy smiles. When kids have access to the dental care they need to be healthy early on in life, they can break the cycle of poor oral health to make things better for their kids when that foundation is established early on.
"The greatest reward we have is taking care of kids who we know otherwise would have no access to care."
—Dr. Sharon Harrell, FirstHealth Dental Care, Southern Pines, NC
Dr. Harrell likes to talk about a patient she treated when he was just a boy. "Niconor came to see us the first week that we opened," she said. "He was about eight years old." The boy's face was so swollen that he couldn't see out of his right eye.
The care that Niconor received that day not only relieved his swelling, it connected him with a dental home so he could receive consistent, routine care and set him on a better path for his oral health and his future.
"Coming from a low income family, I think it was just like a godsend because I really wouldn't have anywhere else to go," Niconor told us. Now, as an adult Niconor has a good job and can afford to take his own son to the dentist, but not at FirstHealth. His income is too high to qualify for their services. "If I didn't have good oral hygiene I probably wouldn't feel comfortable talking with anybody face-to-face," he said.
Safety-net dental clinics like FirstHealth rely on donations to support their programs.
"If we didn't have the support of America's ToothFairy, we wouldn't be able to do nearly as much," Dr. Harrell added. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we can help our members provide urgent care for youth in need of treatment that don't have adequate insurance coverage. We can help them stretch their supply budgets to allow them to expand their staff or hours of operation. We can provide the resources they need to provide educational programming at schools and throughout their communities.
"We're also able to expand into the community by providing education to WIC parents and going into daycares," Dr. Harrell continued. "So, our impact would be so much less if we did not have the support of America's ToothFairy. The way I see it, the community is our patients. So, if money were no object, we could expand even more into the community. We could expand into more WIC programs, expand into even more daycares, expand into schools, be able to actually be a very visible portion of the community outside of the clinic walls. We would be able to impact even more substantially the health of our community."
Together, we can provide critical resources to prevent tooth decay and restore smiles. Please give today!