Nearly 113,000 children will benefit from oral health services or oral health education provided through this year’s Smiles for Kids grants. The Delta Dental Foundation , the philanthropic arm of Delta Dental of North Carolina, recently awarded mini-grants totaling $87,120 to 20 nonprofit organizations across North Carolina, including Goshen Medical Center. This is the program’s largest year of giving to date, after an increase in both need and health care disparities over the last year.
In North Carolina, 15.3 percent of kindergarten students already have untreated tooth decay. Through the Smiles for Kids program, the DDF strives to educate the public on the importance of preventative oral health care and to help fund initiatives and programs designed to promote children’s oral health, especially to those in systemically disadvantaged areas. The program supports safety net dental clinics and North Carolina nonprofits, which provide critical dental services and education to local residents.
Curt Ladig, President and CEO of Delta Dental of North Carolina, initiated the program when he joined DDNC in 2010. Since then, the DDF has invested more than $600,000 through the program, which has touched the lives of more than 445,000 underserved children and families in the state. This year, the 20 grant recipients span 37 North Carolina counties.
“Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, and children miss 51 million hours of school every year in the United States due to dental issues,” said Ladig. “It is our hope that this year’s grants will help provide more access to dental care and dental health education for children who may not otherwise have it, allowing them to show up to school—in person or virtually—healthy and ready to learn. Because Delta Dental believes that everyone deserves a healthy smile.”
In considering grants, the DDF evaluates each application on its own merits. It considers the programs in which the organization is engaged, the constituencies it serves, the services it offers, its accountability and its fundraising practices, and the level of local community support it attracts.