Delta Dental Grant to Support Uninsured Kids and Veterans

Dentistry Today

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The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation has awarded the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Dentistry $160,000 to support the school’s annual Give Kids a Smile and Give Vets a Smile events, with additional support for continued treatment of veterans through the program.

Since 2003, the UTHealth School of Dentistry and the Greater Houston Dental Society have worked together to offer Give Kids a Smile, a day of free care for uninsured, underserved children in the Houston area.

In the weeks leading up to Give Kids a Smile, the children get dental screening exams and x-rays so individualized treatment plans are ready when they arrive at the event. Each year, about 350 children receive care, which typically includes preventive treatment, simple extractions, and limited restorations. 

A similar effort to help veterans, many of them homeless, began in 2015 when the UTHealth School of Dentistry joined with the Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth to host Give Vets a Smile. Faculty and staff from both schools identify and invite veteran programs to the event.

Cizik School of Nursing students distribute and gather medical histories for the treatment, which will be provided by School of Dentistry residents and senior dental students. The event began with 50 veterans and grew to 70 in 2017. The goal for 2018 is to reach 100 veterans.

“The recent gift from the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation means the school can expand the scope and care for more patients at both Give Kids a Smile and Give Vets a Smile, even providing extended care for some veterans,” said Kimberly Ruona, DDS, associate dean for patient care at UTHealth School of Dentistry. 

“With such a significant amount of support, we plan to provide comprehensive care for up to 100 veterans who may otherwise have not received it through traditional means. It’s a win-win for all involved. Our students, residents, and faculty benefit from caring for and learning from these special populations,” said Ruona. 

“The UTHealth School of Dentistry greatly appreciates being selected as one of the recipients of the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation grant awards,” said Margo Melchor, RDH, EdD, community outreach director for the UTHealth School of Dentistry.

“The additional support enables the School of Dentistry to provide more sustained care to help improve function and self-esteem to identified veterans from the event,” said Melchor.

“The Foundation’s mission is to increase access to quality dental care in underserved areas and we could not do so without dedicated partners like UTHealth School of Dentistry,” said Karen Robinson, vice president of corporate affairs for Delta Dental and executive director of the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation. 

“Together we can make a difference in the lives of these children and veterans because they deserve a healthy smile,” said Robinson. 

The grant is one of 32 given in Texas by the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation to help improve the oral health of disadvantaged children and adults by removing barriers to quality dental care. Since its inception in 2011, the Foundation has awarded more than $4.2 million in grants to organizations throughout Texas.

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