by Christine Nathe, RDH, MS
This month’s column focuses on an inspiring organization that helps promote dental health for children and focuses on prevention and education, two words synonymous with dental hygiene. America’s Toothfairy National Children’s Oral Health Foundation (NCOHF) is an independent, national non-profit children’s health organization comprised of dental professionals, industry leaders, philanthropic individuals, and nonprofit agencies.
This organization supports the delivery of comprehensive oral health care for our nation’s most underserved children. America’s Toothfairy supports a growing network of not-for-profit dental centers, university dental schools, community clinics, and volunteer dental professionals across the country that provide oral health care to underserved children. This support includes over $6 million in funding, donated dental products, and educational materials for parents, children, and professionals.
In 1995, Dr. Cherilyn Sheets established The Children’s Dental Center (TCDC) in Inglewood, Calif., as a dental home for vulnerable populations. This prototype clinic led to the creation of America’s Toothfairy as an umbrella organization to support other nonprofit clinics across the nation. The 10-year plan for America’s Toothfairy includes treating five million underserved children through more than 500 Affiliate centers, facilitating oral health education for over 20 million children, and expanding services to provide support worldwide.
Fern Ingber, America’s Toothfairy president and CEO, stated, “Millions of American children are suffering from pediatric dental disease and accompanying pain so severe it compromises their ability to eat, sleep, and learn. Along with the passionate dedication to facilitating the delivery of comprehensive oral health services to our nation’s most underserved children, America’s Toothfairy strives to raise public awareness that oral health is fundamentally linked to overall healthy growth and development. With continued generous supporters and an ever-growing network of nonprofit community programs, we are confident that we can break the cycle of this preventable disease for future generations.”
Dental hygienists are truly where care begins, and America’s Toothfairy encourages them to take a leadership role in the organization by sharing the mission with their patients. Affiliate members have reached over 1 million children in less than four years! This is quite a remarkable accomplishment.
America’s Toothfairy is an excellent example of an entrepreneurial activity that is directed to children in need of dental care. Many of these children face multiple barriers to obtaining preventive and urgent dental care. Although the idea to help these children started small, it grew to support a multitude of clinics, which are ever expanding. This organization is a wonderful example of a successful partnership between the private and public sectors.
Dental hygienists have the opportunity to become involved by encouraging their nonprofit clinics to join the America’s Toothfairy affiliate network or by making a contribution to the Dental Hygienists’ Toothfairy Campaign. Visit www.ncohf.org/professionals/hygienists/ to become involved.
Dental hygienists, let’s make a difference!
Christine Nathe, RDH, MS, is a professor and graduate program director at the University of New Mexico, Division of Dental Hygiene, in Albuquerque, N.M. She is also the author of “Dental Public Health” (www.prenhall.com/nathe), which is in its second edition with Prentice Hall. She can be reached at [email protected] or (505) 272-8147.