NASHVILLE, TN — Delta Dental of Tennessee (Delta Dental) today announced a collective $1.1 million in donations to Tennessee dental clinics via its charitable arm, the Smile180 Foundation. Twenty-four clinics across the state are receiving funds to support operating and capital costs, as well as a separate allowance to purchase dental practice supplies and equipment through an extension of Delta Dental’s Operation #SmilesMatter grant program for dentists.
“We know that a healthy smile can be transformative, improving self-esteem, success at work and school, and overall health,” said Dr. Phil Wenk, CEO and president of Delta Dental of Tennessee. “During this challenging and uncertain time, Delta Dental is proud to continue to support our clinic partners in their work to ensure that all Tennesseans have access to dental care, regardless of their financial status, and can receive that care in a safe environment to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 transmission for both providers and patients.”
Tennessee’s charitably-run dental clinics play an essential role in providing care to tens of thousands of Tennesseans each year. Tennessee is one of only three states in the country that does not provide dental coverage for adults through Medicaid or Medicare, affecting 450,000 individuals. In 2019, Tennessee’s safety net dental clinics provided 36,752 procedures to patients who may otherwise not have received care.
First Love on Main, a clinic in Morristown, plans to use a portion of their grant to purchase needed sterilization equipment that will complement the upgrades Smile180 funded last year. The clinic closed to all but emergency care during the pandemic; however, the need for urgent care among its patients was so great that clinic staff and volunteers came together and safely conducted two extraction days. First Love on Main also had to cancel the annual fundraiser it relies on to help support its operating costs.
Despite the challenges and “what-ifs” ahead, Cindy Jenkins, director of First Love on Main, noted that she is committed to “looking at all the goodness that has prevailed in spite of everything.”
“We look forward to the restoration of all services for our patients soon,” said Jenkins. “Our patients have been kind and understanding of the suspension of services other than emergencies, and continue to thank us for standing in the gap for them. Smile180 makes this possible!”
The Smile180 Foundation supports Tennessee’s dental colleges, children’s hospitals, free and reduced-cost dental clinics, and other like-minded charities. Since its founding in 2014, the Smile180 Foundation has contributed over $6.5 million to support Tennessee’s safety net dental clinics.
Today’s announcement continues Delta Dental’s commitment to supporting its communities and health care providers across the state during the COVID-19 pandemic. Delta Dental previously pledged more than $3.3 million for Operation #SmilesMatter to help Tennessee dentists safely return to work by funding a $1,000 credit for all Tennessee dentists to use to acquire needed supplies. Delta Dental also gifted $50,000 to statewide COVID-19 relief efforts through Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee and the Nashville Area Command of the Salvation Army earlier this month.
For the latest on Delta Dental’s COVID-19 response, please visit DeltaDentalTN.com.