We all need to work together to improve children’s oral health.
How corporate partners can change the future of kids in need.
In the first 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.
For the millions of American kids who lack access to routine dental care, keeping their smiles healthy can be a real challenge. They suffer from higher rates of tooth decay, miss millions of hours of school each year, often grow up believing that cavities are just an inevitable part of life, and are more likely to be missing permanent teeth as adults.
Their poor oral health can not only impact their perform at school in their early years, but can also affect their overall health and ability to land a good-paying job into adulthood.
There are many reasons why a child might not receive the dental care they need to be healthy:
Millions live in Dental Health Care Provider Shortage Areas, where there simply aren’t enough dental care providers. Patients in these communities can wait as long as a year or more to get a dental appointment. Many end up in the emergency department of their local hospital seeking pain relief.
Young patients on Medicaid and other publicly-funded programs often have difficulty finding a provider that is accepting new patients. Nationwide, it is estimated that fewer than half of these kids receive dental care each year.
Many low-income families lack access to reliable transportation or can’t afford to take time off from work to visit a dental care provider. Others must drive for hours to receive care.
Low oral health literacy can also impede a child’s access to care. When parents don’t understand that sugary and starchy foods feed the bacteria that cause tooth decay, that primary teeth are worth protecting, that sealants and fluoride treatments can prevent 80% of cavities, and that daily dental hygiene habits are essential for healthy teeth and gums, their kids suffer the consequences.
Children in the foster care system have a higher incidence of dental issues and a lower chance of receiving restorative or routine dental care.
Children with physical and intellectual disabilities face additional barriers that make dental care their number one unmet healthcare need.
When kids have healthy smiles they have a better chance of reaching their potential. That’s why America’s ToothFairy strives to help every child access a true dental home to receive preventive and restorative dental care. We work toward this goal in two ways:
Increase access to routine and preventive care: We provide resources for safety-net dental clinics and community organizations that provide a dental home and/or preventive dental services for children who face barriers to care. These resources include donated dental equipment and supplies, home care products including toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss, and grants to support the provision of restorative care, mobile services, and community outreach events.
Oral health education: We provide printed and online education resources for parents, caregivers and children, produce campaigns that spread awareness about the importance of oral health and disparities that exist, and offer volunteer opportunities hat help educate and empower families to take control of their oral health and break the vicious cycle of poor oral health.
If we want to see improvement in the oral health of our nation’s kids we all need to work together.
Since 2006, nearly 300 corporate supporters—who are often competitors in the marketplace—have joined together as partners in our cause to improve the oral health of our nation’s youth. They’ve donated products, equipment and media, and given financially to support our programs, awareness and fundraising campaigns, events and operations in order to serve the common good: healthier kids with brighter futures.
As a result, in the 15 years since our founding, we’ve helped our Dental Resource Program members provide more than 8.6 million kids with the dental care and education they need to grow up with healthy smiles. And our education programs taught more than 10 million kids and caregivers about the importance or oral health and how to take care of their smiles.
While we have seen an improvement in kids' oral health, there is still a lot more that needs to be done. Consider how you can partner with us to create a future where every child has access to the dental care they need to be healthy.
Here are 7 ways to join us in our mission:
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