As millions of Americans have lost their health insurance including dental coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are seeking treatment at free and low-cost dental clinics. But these clinics are struggling to meet the growing demand with their limited resources.
“We’re living day by day unsure when we will run out of supplies,” said Dr. Loretta Lam, a dentist at Well Child Center, a nonprofit that provides care to underserved populations in Elgin, Illinois, that has been fighting to stay open since its reopening after the shutdown early in 2020.
“The only other nonprofit dental clinic in our area is fully booked out for a year and not taking any patients. People have nowhere else to go, so parents have been calling and begging us to see their kids,” said Lam. “The need is higher than ever, but we cannot get the supplies that we need with our small budget.”
The Smiles for All movement aims to help those who lack access to necessary dental care. It includes 17 dental companies that are giving back even as they are affected by the changing economy, the organization said.
These companies include Forward Science, OrthoGum, the Dr. Kevin M. Kenny Foundation, Tokuyama, PureLife, hyperbiotics, byte, BeeSure, Care Harbor, Sinclair, Midwest Dental, Aseptico, AM-Touch, Sunset Technologies, Practicon, DryShield, and SISU.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, these companies have donated $2.9 million in cash, products, and services.
“During this unprecedented time, we want to do everything we can, in whatever way possible, to step up and contribute,” said Scott Cohen, cofounder of byte, which has used its manufacturing labs to produce medical face shields and donate them to frontline workers nationwide.
By using their resources to help others, the companies supporting Smiles for All are promoting a mission of giving back when it is most needed, they said. As more companies join the movement, more nonprofits will have the resources necessary to tackle the crisis, the participants said, potentially changing the lives of billions of people who struggle to access dental care.