In October, we detailed four ways the dental nonprofits that make up our Dental Resource Program (DRP) members have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus shutdown and what we’re doing to help them get back on their feet again. In addition to the prohibitive costs of reopening, staff reductions, and near-impossible community outreach, DRP members have also seen an increase in costly urgent and emergency treatment for children who had to forego routine dental care during the early part of the pandemic.
With a backlog of patients (particularly in clinics where wait times can be up to a year under normal circumstances) and more parents out of work, the need for more comprehensive dental treatment is only expected to increase in the next year.
To make matters worse, with social distancing guidelines making it difficult for dentists to donate their time and skills during dental charity events, children from low-income families or those who lack proper dental coverage will have even more difficulty staying away from the emergency room due to Dental pain and infections.
So, what can dental providers and other concerned citizens do to help? In February – National Children’s Dental Health Month – we’ll be launching our More Smiles campaign, an opportunity to give so kids in need can get the urgent and compensatory care they need but their families can’t afford. Proceeds will benefit our In the Gap Program, which provides grants to pay for the direct care of patients with our DRP members.
Since the program launched in 2017, 69 children have benefited from In the Gap grants including *Stacy, a teen with absent parents who need a crown, and Axel, a seven-year-old who a single, unemployed mother can’t afford. He paid for the extraction of four carious teeth that were causing him excruciating pain. Prizes for Most In the Gap range from $500 to $1,000. Our goal with More Smiles is to raise enough to help 25-50 children in need of dental treatment.
Our In the Gap program has four benefits that a free annual service day or charitable dental event cannot offer, making it a worthwhile investment for dental professionals working in for-profit offices:
1. A donation to support the In the Gap Scholarship does more than just care to relieve pain or embarrassment. It also links the care a child in need receives to a dental home that can give them the continuity of care they need to maintain good oral health for years to come.
2. In the Gap grants provide core funding to help nonprofit dental clinics stay afloat during an uncertain economy, to continue serving marginalized communities into the future. The patients they serve will likely never set foot in a for-profit dental clinic, making their presence essential to improving the health of people living in poor and underserved communities.
3. Funding an In the Gap grant is a more effective way to provide charitable care to low-income children for two reasons:
• Nonprofit dental clinics often combine donated services and products, and treatments that are partially covered by state-funded dental plans, with the resources they receive from grants in order to serve more children than the grant alone can. In other words, they multiply the effect of the donation.
• When for-profit dental offices treat patients who cannot pay, they not only incur the cost of their service, time, and supplies, but also lose profits from a paying patient (and future revenue they can afford) so, in effect, they are compounding their loss.
4. Often, the inability to pay is not the only thing preventing children from receiving the care they need. Some families lack reliable transportation, face cultural or language barriers, or have other health care needs that make getting service from a traditional dental office or charitable service day more difficult. Nonprofit dental clinics are uniquely qualified to deal with these issues and can apply In the Gap funding to overcome challenges such as relocation.
We are excited to campaign for more smiles and kids who will benefit from the generosity of those who give! The opportunity to relieve pain, end embarrassment, restore smiles, and prevent future deterioration, inspires us to move forward in the challenges of the current state of the world to brighter days in the future.
Please learn more about the campaign here, and consider making a tax deduction donation to help children in need have healthy, happy smiles in 2021!