Access to Oral Health Care and a Link to a Dental Home

Written and submitted by:

Michal Herman, Dental Home Director, KinderSmile Bloomfield

Esther’s first visit with KinderSmile Oral Health Program was at her school in 2019, where she received her very first oral exam and dental cleaning. She was immediately linked to our Dental Home, KinderSmile Community Oral Health Center Bloomfield, where she returned for her recall appointments and restorative visits. Always a mature and cooperative patient, Esther only had a simple request— she needed her comforting Dental Assistant Lissa to be by her side, holding her hand throughout each procedure.

Esther is one of nearly 2,000 children who benefitted from this program in the past year despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and our three-month closure. KinderSmile Oral Health Program, the flagship program of our organization, brings preventive dental services to partnering schools and community centers. We provide offsite oral health education, dental exams, caries risk assessments, dental prophylaxis, fluoride applications, sealants when appropriate, and a crucial link to a permanent Dental Home. The mission of KinderSmile Foundation is to provide underserved children with access to comprehensive dental care and educate children and their families about the importance of dental hygiene. We envision a future where every child has access to a dentist, and preventable dental diseases are eradicated.

The coronavirus pandemic has further underlined racial and economic disparities in our society. The high unemployment rates and a lack of full-time schooling have increased the number of uninsured and underserved families who turn to KinderSmile Community Oral Health Center Bloomfield for timely access to oral health care, regardless of insurance status. In the past year, 94% of the children we served came from at-risk families: 76% were insured by Medicaid/NJ FamilyCare, 18% were uninsured, and only 6% were privately insured. Our sustainable Dental Home model combats the inequality of oral health care access in underserved communities by establishing a permanent link to a brick-and-mortar Dental Home while focusing on the three key goals of education, prevention, and intervention.

We are very grateful to Partners for Health Foundation for their continued support, and for sponsoring this important mission for the past year. Together, we provided access to oral health care and education to Esther and nearly 2,000 children.

Thank you!