NASHVILLE, Tenn. – (June 10, 2020) – As dental offices reopen across Tennessee following COVID-19-related closures, community partners have come together to highlight the importance of seeking regular preventive care, along with establishing good oral hygiene habits at home, to maintaining a healthy smile.
Governor Bill Lee, along with the Tennessee Charitable Care Network (TCCN), an association of more than 50 safety net health care clinics across the state, including 17 dental clinics with 18 locations, has declared June 15-19, 2020, the 5th Annual Tennessee Oral Health Smile Power Week.
Smile Power Week highlights the important work being done in communities across Tennessee by these charitably-run clinics through both clinical care and educational programs and outreach. In 2019, Tennessee's safety net dental clinics provided 36,752 procedures to patients who may otherwise not have received care.
“During this time of unprecedented uncertainty, our clinics are more committed than ever to ensuring every Tennessean has access to quality oral health care in a safe environment, regardless of their ability to pay,” said Mary Kiger, Executive Director, Tennessee Charitable Care Network (TCCN). “And this work would not be possible without the generous and continued support of Delta Dental of Tennessee and its Smile180 Foundation.”
As dental offices resume providing nonemergency care during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Dental Association (ADA) have issued new safety guidelines for dental offices to help protect dentists, their staff, and patients. In addition to increased disinfecting protocols, these recommendations include health screenings and temperature checks upon arrival, and minimizing the number of people in the office by asking patients to come alone to appointments and to wait in their car when they arrive.
Delta Dental of Tennessee, a longtime supporter of TCCN and its member clinics, has been focused on ensuring its clinic partners, as well as all independent Tennessee dentists, are supported as they return to work under these new safety guidelines and navigate unprecedented challenges. Since its launch on May 11, Delta Dental’s Operation #SmilesMatter program, a commitment of more than $3.3 million, has helped dentists across the state purchase much needed supplies to be able to reopen their offices. Additionally, Delta Dental’s Smile180 Foundation announced a collective $1.1 million in donations to 24 safety net dental clinics last month.
“We are proud to support our clinic partners across the state and help kick off the 5th Annual Smile Power Week,” said Dr. Phil Wenk, CEO and president of Delta Dental of Tennessee. “These clinics are an incredible resource to tens of thousands of Tennesseans who would not otherwise be able to access or afford essential care.”
Oral health is closely linked to overall health, and catching common problems like gum disease and cavities early on through regular dental cleanings is critical to avoiding more painful and complicated treatment down the road. To maintain good oral hygiene at home in between appointments, the American Dental Association recommends brushing twice a day, for two minutes each time, and flossing daily. To minimize the spread of germs, everyone in the house should have and use their own toothbrush and toothpaste.
For more information about accessing free and low-cost dental resources across Tennessee, please visit the Smile180 Foundation’s Resource Guide at https://tennessee.deltadental.com/en/smile180.html.
Delta Dental of Tennessee
Delta Dental of Tennessee is the state’s largest independent dental benefits carrier with more than 1.2 million lives covered. As part of the Delta Dental Plans Association, Delta Dental of Tennessee members have access to the largest dental network in the nation with more than 154,000 providers serving more than 332,000 locations. With the simple mission of ensuring healthy smiles, Delta Dental of Tennessee works hard to help members of the communities it serves. Along with its corporate foundation, Smile180, Delta Dental of Tennessee donated more than $7 million in funding and in-kind services to over 140 organizations in 2019, and employees shared 2,182 volunteer hours in the community.
The Tennessee Charitable Care Network
The Tennessee Charitable Care Network (TCCN) has a mission to provide support, education, and representation for non-profit organizations that provide charitable health care services to low-income, uninsured, and underserved Tennesseans. Established in 2014, TCCN ensures that Tennessee’s charitable clinics are equipped to effectively respond to the health care needs of vulnerable populations now and into the future. Faced with common challenges, such as the changing healthcare landscape, limited financial resources, reliance on volunteers versus full-time staff, and a lack of training resources, key leaders within the state’s charitable clinics identified the need for a statewide membership association. TCCN was initiated by these leaders to provide a collective voice for charitable clinics, along with the resources and expertise needed to tackle shared challenges in an effective and efficient way. The leadership and collaboration provided by TCCN ensure that charitable clinics can successfully meet patient needs while navigating the changing environment, improving systems and quality, and developing services tailored to the unique needs and assets of each community.