How to provide restorative dental care in 5 minutes.
In the second in a series of three blog posts, our executive director, Jill Malmgren outlines why now is the time to get involved and the many ways corporations and small businesses alike can partner with America's ToothFairy to make a lasting impact for the oral health of children. Read the first in the series here.
Right now in America there is a little girl with tooth decay so severe that the pain keeps her from eating or sleeping. If she can manage to go to school, she certainly isn’t learning anything through her misery. Her mom gives her Tylenol and thinks it’s silly to pay for a filling on a tooth that will eventually fall out. She doesn’t know she’s risking dangerous infections by delaying her daughter’s care.
There is a teenaged boy whose state-funded dental insurance covered his root canal but wouldn’t cover the crown he needed to complete his treatment. As a result, his tooth has cracked.
There is a young girl who lives with her grandmother because her parents are addicted to drugs. She has cavities in all of her teeth. Her grandmother is hoping one of those free dental service events will be held near her soon.
Generally speaking, dental professionals are a caring and generous group. They want to help kids like these. Some volunteer at free dental care events or offer free dental service days at their office.
While participating in free dental care events can be fulfilling in many ways, serving kids in need this way is often a lose-lose situation. The dental office loses money in the cost of their time, materials, and the revenue they miss out on because they’re not treating patients who can afford to pay. Plus, most of the time they never see the patient again–at least, not until the next free dental day.
For kids like those I’ve described above, help often comes too late and they lose a tooth because the decay is too severe or because it’s the most cost-effective option but not in the patient’s best interest. Not only that, they lose the opportunity to connect to a dental home that can help prevent future problems and overcome the barriers to care that led to their situation in the first place.
That’s why we started In the Gap.
Through this program, nonprofit dental clinics that specialize in treating kids who face complex barriers to care can apply for grants on behalf of their patients. These grants not only help families afford dental care that would otherwise be out of reach, but also help by:
Speeding up the provision of care. When parents delay care because they’re saving up to pay for it, treatment can get more expensive with each passing day.
Saving teeth. Extraction of a tooth may be the cheaper option, but it’s often not in the best interest of the child, especially when multiple teeth are involved or when the decay is in a permanent tooth.
Freeing up resources. If the nonprofit clinic staff provide treatment for free, it depletes the resources that could be used to hold preventive outreach events like screenings and educational events at schools.
Connecting low-income families to a dental home. Once a child has received services from a clinic that can address the financial, geographical, and cultural barriers that get in the way of receiving dental care, they are more likely to get routine preventive services and practice healthy dental hygiene habits.
Providing more cost-effective services. Funding grants that pay for the direct care of a child in need costs less for dentists than the related costs of consumables and taking time away from paying customers in order to provide free dental care.
Here is how the In the Gap Program works:
Nonprofit, safety-net dental clinics are vetted through the requirements of our Dental Resource Program (DRP.) DRP members may apply for In the Gap grants on behalf of uninsured or under-insured pediatric patients who need care that costs more than their family can afford.
DRP members are notified when a round of In the Gap grants are available. They may apply for services they provide in their clinic, to pay a specialist such as an endodontist or orthodontist who are providing services at a reduced rate, to cover lab or sedation costs, or to aid in the transportation of a patient who lacks access to reliable transportation.
America’s ToothFairy determines which cases are most urgent and provides grants directly to the clinic. The clinic arranges treatment, which may involve several office visits and follow-up care, and provides oral health instruction to the patient and their caregiver (when possible) in order to prevent future issues.
The clinic provides an update on the patient’s treatment and messages of thanks from the patient or their caregiver.
You can read more about the kids who’ve received care thanks to In the Gap donors on our Stories of Impact page.
So, how can you restore the smile of a child in need in only five minutes?
Fans of the legendary cosmetic dentist, Dr. Ronald Goldstein can receive a special gift for contributing towards the care of a teen in need. Learn more about this special opportunity at TomorrowsSmiles.org.