10 million-plus Americans helped by Delta Dental member companies' contribution of $61 million in community benefits

Philanthropic initiatives underscore Delta Dental's mission of increasing access to oral health care in U.S. communities nationwide

OAK BROOK, Ill., Oct. 15, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Access to oral health care continues to be a challenge for millions of children and adults, with some never having seen a dentist. Delta Dental is committed to addressing this critical need across the United States. The not-for-profit national association of the Delta Dental companies reports that its member companies donated more than $61 million in direct and in-kind community outreach in 2017, helping over 10.2 million individuals nationwide. 

"The Delta Dental member companies' actionable investments in communities across the nation demonstrate their genuine commitment to improving lives, one smile at a time," said Steven R. Olson, president and CEO of Delta Dental Plans Association. "As community partners, the Delta Dental companies continuously evaluate where and how they can create meaningful outcomes that can have a lasting, positive effect on oral health and overall health."

So how are Delta Dental's philanthropic contributions making a difference? By supporting 1,425 programs across the country last year, the Delta Dental companies increased access to oral health care through direct programming and financial support of dental workforce education; provided treatment to at-risk children and adults; and expanded oral health awareness, education and wellness.

Oral health education as a priority
Outreach for oral health education programs backed by the Delta Dental member companies in 2017 exceeded 4.3 million persons. An example is the continuation of the Land of Smiles® educational touring program supported by Delta Dental of Missouri. Since 2002, more than 900,000 children have learned about the importance of good oral health, with the help of Delta Dental's Tooth WizardSM, Tooth Fairy, and PlaqueManSM characters. Learn more here about how elementary school-aged children have been engaged during more than 4,500 performances of the Land of Smiles tour across the Show Me State.

Another oral health education endeavor includes the Cavity Free Kids curriculum (developed by Delta Dental of Washington's foundation), which teaches early learning (Head Start, child care, home visiting) providers about what causes tooth decay and how to work with families to prevent oral disease and promote good health. The curriculum is recommended by Head Start's National Center on Early Childhood Health and Wellness, and Cavity Free Kids trainings have been delivered in 19 states.

Additional oral health education examples follow: Delta Dental of Arkansas leveraged Captain Supertooth and the Tooth Fairy at a National Education Association's Read Across America Day event to discuss how to keep teeth happy, healthy and clean; the Delta Dental Foundation collaborated with Girl Scout troops in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana on the Smile Squad oral health patch program; and Delta Dental of Illinois offered the Teeth-on-the-GoSM bookbag program to instruct kindergarten through 2nd grade-aged students about good dental care.

"We understand how a healthy smile changes a life — a smile can boost confidence, express feeling, help get a job, and tell a story," said Dr. Joe Dill, DDS, MBA, Delta Dental Plans Association's vice president of dental science and network strategy. "Establishing positive oral hygiene habits at a young age is critical to laying the foundation for good oral health. Delta Dental's oral health education programs are designed to be informative and engaging, making them ideal for helping brushers and flossers in training establish good habits for a lifetime."

The Children's Oral Health Survey shows that children who brush as often as they should are more likely than those who don't (67 percent versus 60 percent) to take pride in their smile. The "smile pride" gap improves with flossing to 79 percent versus 63 percent.

In addition, the Delta Dental survey reveals that children who brush their teeth two or more times a day are more likely than those who brush less often to be proud of their personal success (68 percent versus 48 percent), performance in school (66 percent versus 47 percent), and good eating habits (45 percent versus 32 percent).

Establishing roots in dental prevention
Helping to prevent oral health problems, before they occur, is at the heart of many of Delta Dental's community benefits efforts. In 2017, more than 4.2 million individuals were served by the Delta Dental companies' dental prevention initiatives, including community water fluoridation, school sealant programs, and screenings. As an example, Delta Dental of Wisconsin supports one of the most comprehensive school-based sealant programs in the country in partnership with the state of Wisconsin and Children's Health Alliance of Wisconsin. The Seal-A-Smile program helps to reduce the incidence of caries and other oral health problems among school-aged children in vulnerable segments of the population. In addition, Delta Dental of Iowa sponsored the "Rethink Your Drink" program to install water bottle filling stations at numerous schools in Iowa to update or replace existing water fountains.

Treating dental needs of at-risk Americans
Through the Delta Dental member companies' community outreach, more than 1.3 million at-risk children and adults received treatments for dental diseases and cavities. One example of assistance is the continuation of a successful, multimillion-dollar mobile dental program offered by Delta Dental of South Dakota. Two fully staffed mobile dental clinic trucks tour communities statewide on average 40 weeks per year to address the oral health needs of underserved children. Click here to view more about the mobile dental program. Another illustration of assistance is support in 2017 from Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation, which expanded access to care for more than 130,000 Minnesotans in need through increased capacity at safety net dental clinics around the state. Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation made grants to more than a dozen not-for-profit clinics in 2017 and had another 10 active grants from prior years focused on access to care.

Addressing other local-level needs
More than 330,000 people benefited from the Delta Dental companies' support of oral health research, dental workforce education, dental sponsorships, and non-health-related aid, including helping with relief efforts for natural disasters. As an example of a dental sponsorship, Delta Dental of Arizona hit it out of the ballpark with its participation in the No Chew Crew anti-smokeless tobacco program, in partnership with the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team.

About the survey
The Children's Oral Health Survey was conducted between December 13 and December 28, 2017, among a nationally representative sample of 1,322 parents of children ages 12 and under. The margin of error is +/- 2.7 percent.