We Can Do More for Low-Income Kids Than Drill, Fill, and Pull

Jill Malmgren

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February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and Dentistry Today is celebrating the event with a series of blogs focused on various aspects of pediatric care. #NCDHM

During National Children’s Dental Health Month, a spotlight shines on the oral health crisis that plagues our nation’s youth and on the importance of prevention. There are still far too many kids who do not have access to the basic resources and education necessary to prevent tooth decay and maintain good dental health. As a result, dental disease is threatening the health, welfare, and future of these children. Nationally, 27% of kids have an acute oral health need.

For the nonprofit dental clinics and community health organizations that America’s ToothFairy supports, the oral health crisis is not just an issue in February—it is one they battle day in and day out all year long. But without essential education and prevention resources, efforts focus on restorative care, creating a revolving door of “drill, fill, and pull” where children access dental services only when they are in severe pain or after more invasive and expensive treatment becomes necessary.

America’s ToothFairy has a plan to connect concerned dental professionals and the community health educators and stakeholders serving kids in need. Our Smile Guardian Education Initiative gives dental practices a way to equip at-risk kids with the information and basic tools they need to protect their smiles and prevent tooth decay long after National Children’s Dental Health Month has ended.

Through this initiative, dental practices become Official Smile Guardians—benefactors that can impact up to 2,000 children through the oral health educators who have access to them. America’s ToothFairy distributes “Protect Your Smile Resource Kits” to schools, nonprofit dental clinics, or community organizations that serve kids in need. These resource kits include scripted oral health lessons and activities, toothbrushes, educational activity sheets, mirror clings and brushing charts to remind children to brush, and Smile Drive Toolkits to raise oral health awareness within the community.

Providing resources for oral health educators allows them to reach more children and open doors to families who do not access dental care until they are in desperate circumstances. One good example is from Just Kids Dental (JKD) in Two Harbors, Minnesota, a nonprofit program supported by America’s ToothFairy. While providing oral health education at an elementary school, JKD staff were approached by a 7-year-old boy who shyly asked if he could skip a prize bag and instead get extra toothbrushes for his brothers.

“No one at home had a toothbrush, toothpaste, or floss,” JKD executive director Stacey Anderson told us. “Without question, program staff stuffed his bag full of dental supplies. Since then, we have assisted this family in establishing a dental home.”

Now, this boy and his siblings visit their dental home regularly. 

Without the essential resources to provide oral health education, JKD would not have been able to visit the school, provide for the basic oral hygiene needs of this family, nor establish the relationship to provide routine care. Oral health education opens the door for access to care. With the Smile Guardian Initiative, we hope to open thousands of doors. To learn more about joining this initiative, call (704) 719-9089.

Since 2006, America’s ToothFairy has served as a resource provider, increasing access to oral healthcare by supporting nonprofit clinics and community partners delivering education, prevention, and treatment services for underserved children. To date, America’s ToothFairy has helped these organizations and community programs provide dental care and education to more than 9.6 million children and their caregivers. In addition, through our Smile Drive Program, we are on track to distribute 2 million oral care products to kids in need since the program began in 2014.

For more information about America’s ToothFairy and their programs, call (800) 559-9838 or visit AmericasToothFairy.org

Ms. Malmgren, executive director of America’s ToothFairy: National Children’s Oral Health Foundation, has more than 15 years of leadership experience across a variety of industries. She began her career in dentistry in 2006, serving as director of operations for the Sheets & Paquette Dental Practice and the Newport Coast Oral Facial Institute. In 2011, she relocated to Charlotte, NC, where she joined the America’s ToothFairy team and later assumed the role of chief operating officer. As executive director, she aims to continue to expand the organization’s role as a valued resource provider for nonprofit clinics and community partners delivering oral health education, preventive services, and treatment for underserved children.

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