Why Our Mission Matters
According to the Surgeon General, dental care is the number one unmet healthcare need for children in the United States. The Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) data show approximately one in five children and teens live with untreated cavities, and one out of every seven elementary school children lives with a toothache. Extensive tooth decay can be destructive to a child’s confidence and social development, and ongoing dental pain can interfere with the ability to eat, sleep, and focus in school.
This begs the question: why are these children, teens and countless adults not receiving the care they clearly need? The answer often comes down to lack of affordable dental care. There is simply a shortage of dentists in the U.S. who are willing to accept Medicaid, and in states where Medicaid reimbursement is lowest, the need is staggering. In 2010, only 40% of the 33 million children who rely on Medicaid for dental care actually visited a dentist. A meager 20% of the 179,000 practicing dentists in the U.S. accept Medicaid. And of that 20%, many dentists are unwilling to schedule Medicaid patients.
And who can blame dentists? The average U.S. dentist is a small business owner that must invest a huge amount of time and money in non-clinical aspects of running a dental practice, such as overhead with rent or mortgage, equipment, HR and administrative support, scheduling and billing. Many dentists spend their evenings and weekends away from their family to run their business after a full day of patient care. In many cases, it can be financially difficult or even impossible for these professionals to accept patients who rely on Medicaid for their dental care, despite the significant dental needs of this population.
That’s where Kool Smiles comes in. Since its founding in 2002, it has been the mission of Kool Smiles to expand access to quality dental care in underserved communities. Founded on the belief that everyone deserves a chance to have a healthy smile, there are now 125 Kool Smiles offices nationwide, providing dental services to underserved children, teens and adults. Thanks to an efficient business model, similar to many other health practices like pharmacies, diagnostic imaging and hospitals, Kool Smiles’ licensed professionals are able to focus substantially all of their time on patient care, while administrative work like accounting and billing are taken care of by an administrative support partner. This business model makes it possible for Kool Smiles dentists to see and treat patients that most private dental practices cannot. It’s a win-win situation. Dentists win, and patients win. Everyone wins.