delta dental foundation

Nonprofit of the Month: Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation

What were you doing in 1997? Running to the theatre to see Titanic? Humming along to “MMMBop”? Watching Tiger Woods dominate golf?

How about launching a foundation that would grow to one of the most impactful in Arizona?

Delta Dental of Arizona started the Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation (DDAZF) in 1997 with the mission is to improve oral health across the state, particularly for uninsured and underinsured groups and communities. To give an idea of scope, since 2010 alone, DDAZF has provided more than $12 million to support oral health education and disease prevention programs for underserved and uninsured communities across the state. DDAZF provides support both through grant programs and extensive community outreach and education.

Grant Programs

Throughout 2021, DDAZF awarded nearly $775,000 to 30 nonprofit organizations across the state as recipients of grants and dental supplies. Grants were awarded via two programs: IMPACT Grants and Community Grants.

Organizations selected by DDAZF to apply for IMPACT Grants were chosen based on the oral health program’s demonstrated impact in the community, melding of services and education, plus the number of lives that are touched by the program.

Among this year’s IMPACT recipients is Neighborhood Outreach Access to Health (NOAH), who was awarded a grant of $100,000 over two years for its Smiles for Kids school-based oral health program.

In the past, NOAH’s Smiles for Kids program provided in-person oral health education, dental screenings and fluoride varnish services to more than 3,000 children at primarily Title 1 elementary schools in Deer Valley, Scottsdale and Paradise Valley. When schools were unable to provide in-person learning among COVID-19, in order to continue this important work, NOAH retooled the program to provide the educational component via video utilizing the funds from Delta Dental of Arizona. 

Fellow 2020-2021 IMPACT grant recipients included the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix’s Children’s Dental Clinic, El Rio Community Health Center’s Pediatric Dental Integration Program and Tooth BUDDS, which is a group of affiliated practice dental hygienists who serve the children of Graham and Greenlee Counties.

The DDAZF Community Grants support programs and organizations statewide that provide oral health education and services for uninsured and underserved children, pregnant women and seniors. These one-year grants range from $2,500 to $25,000. In 2021, 26 nonprofits earned these grants, including:   

  • A New Leaf’s Healthy Smiles for Life, which provides dental hygiene education and supplies.
  • Dignity Health Chandler Children’s Dental Clinic, which provides children with preventive oral healthcare services and Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy.
  • Esperança’s Learning with a Smile, which sends bilingual educators to provide oral health education to low-income Latino children and seniors in Metropolitan Phoenix.
  • Barrow Neurological Foundation’s Post-Surgery Education Program, which educates the patient and family how important proper oral hygiene is during the healing process from jaw surgery. This program provides education and specialized oral care items needed for optimal recovery and to assist holding the jaw in place to ensure the bones heal properly.
  • Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Confident Smiles Program, which provides homeless men, women and children in the organization’s Transformation Program an overall oral health assessment, fluoride varnish treatment and education. 
  • Southwest Human Development’s Oral Health Program for Children and Families, an educational program for children and families providing instruction on the importance of daily and lifelong oral health care, preventive screenings, and the importance of having a dental home. 

Outreach Services and Health Center Support

Beyond its formal grant program, DDAZF has several outreach services, notably one that allows them to provide more than 300,000 free toothbrushes to over 100 nonprofit organizations each year. They also partner with the Children’s Museum of Phoenix every February in honor of Children’s Dental Health Month. Through the partnership, beyond the donation of toothbrushes for each child who visits that month, DDAZF and the museum work on an interactive program with puppet shows, magic shows, story time and presentations by dentists all themed around oral health.

DDAZF also supports the efforts of the Delta Dental Oral Health Center at St. Vincent de Paul’s Virginia G. Piper Medical and Dental Clinic, and sponsors new-parent kits for First Things First, ensuring the estimated 77,000 women that give birth in Arizona each year get an oral health pouch with education cards, resources on infant and baby oral health milestones and development, toothbrushes for mom and baby and much more.

Dentists for Special Needs

In addition to all of the above, in August DDAZF announced a $100,000 grant to support the Pacific Dental Services (PDS) Foundation Dentists for Special Needs, a family-friendly, sensory-integrated nonprofit dental office located on Tatum Boulevard and Bell Road that provides service to the residents across Arizona. Through the grant, a two-year investment of $50,000 per year, DDAZF will support patient care, including financial assistance for those who are uninsured.  

The PDS Foundation Dentists for Special Needs supports patients with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities including autism, Alzheimer’s, dementia, paraplegia and cerebral palsy. The clinic features specially designed wheelchair-accessible, sensory-integrated operatories with televisions on the ceiling, doors for privacy and a unique operatory with two chairs to provide space for siblings to allow for modeling behavior. The team at Dentists for Special Needs is similarly specialized. The clinic features specially trained clinicians and team members uniquely equipped with behavioral and environmental techniques to ensure a successful visit. Appointments are designed to allow the patient time to get comfortable and acquainted with the team.  

Since opening, the PDS Foundation Dentists for Special Needs has grown to serve on average 200 patients per month, providing services including routine dental checkups, fillings, silver diamine fluoride, crowns and emergency dental care.

Statewide Impact

According to the recently released Delta Dental Institute’s 2020 Community Impact Report highlighting the investments that the Delta Dental companies and their Foundations made in 2020 to advance oral health, respond to COVID-19, and address health inequities and disparities, Delta Dental and DDAZF impacted the lives of 346,818 individuals in Arizona by investing $1,787,734 in 54 programs.  

The kicker? In early 2022, they will announce another round of grants across Arizona yet again.

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