Sophia is a first grader from Maplewood, Minnesota who lives with her grandmother. She had been complaining to her teacher about dental pain, so when her school was visited by Community Dental Care (CDC), one of our Dental Resource Program member clinics, Sophia’s teacher brought the issue to the attention of the dentists who were providing screenings for students. The dentists quickly identified Sophia as an urgent case, but when they contacted her grandmother she shared how frustrated she was because she was unable to find a dentist willing to treat Sophia.
This is the case for many families across the nation who live in Dental Healthcare Professional Shortage Areas. Even if these families have dental insurance coverage, there are either too few dentists to meet the needs of their local population or reimbursement rates are so low, dentists cannot afford to treat more than a few hundred low-income kids per year. In addition, many families lack transportation or cannot afford to take time off from work to visit the dentist.
The situation is the same in urban areas like Orange County, California, where, despite its reputation for affluence, the poverty rate is 24.3%. Sadly, children living in poverty are five times more likely to have untreated decay. Residents here struggle with a range of barriers including some of the lowest medical assistance reimbursement rates in the country. There is currently only one pediatric dentist per 4,900 Denti-Cal eligible children under the age of six in Orange County.
This is why mobile programs run by nonprofit dental clinics are so necessary in many communities across the country. In response to this need, America’s ToothFairy launched the National Mobile Care Initiative, which focuses resources to our 42 member clinics with mobile or portable components. Through this initiative, generously sponsored by Patterson Dental, more than 152,000 children received oral health services from our mobile partners over the past year. Of those children, 62% live in communities with Dental Healthcare Professional Shortages. One in three had untreated tooth decay.
“When America’s ToothFairy shared the needs of these children and how supporting the National Mobile Care Initiative could make a profound impact in their lives, we were honored and excited to sign on as title sponsor,” Patterson Dental Western Region President, Paul Guggenheim shared with us. “It makes us proud when we hear stories about children like Sophia and how our support of America’s ToothFairy has helped her.”
When the mobile dental team from CDC told Sophia’s grandmother that she could be seen at their clinic that day, Sophia’s grandmother was so grateful she began to cry. At Sophia’s clinic visit, the dentist had to extract three abscessed teeth. “How challenging it must have been for Sophia to eat, sleep, concentrate and learn with that kind of pain!” Ann Copeland, Director of Programs for CDC, told us. “By going on-site at schools, we break down some of the barriers that otherwise prevent these children’s families from accessing needed dental care. Funding from America’s ToothFairy helped to support program activities in 17 of our partner schools.”
Thanks to Patterson Dental’s support of the National Mobile Care Initiative, and other generous donors who believe that every child deserves a healthy smile, Sophia and thousands of children like her have healthy mouths and a new reason to smile!