Craig The Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation has provided more than $2 million in free children's dental care the last four years. It hasn't been enough, Executive Director Barbara Springer said.
The foundation is providing $1 million in grant money for six dental providers around the state to see uninsured children throughout the year.
As part of that, Northwest Colorado Dental Care in Craig, which serves five regional counties, will receive $20,000.
The grant money will be a benefit to the office's mission, said Janet Pearcey, Dental Care executive director.
"This fund will be good for all children in all of the counties we serve," Pearcey said.
Before, the foundation sponsored Smile-a-bration, one day of free dental care for children up to 18 years old.
"This was a great way to get a lot of children in one day and get a lot of dentists involved," Springer said. "But it did not provide the best care."
Children who came for free care on those days sometimes needed huge amounts of dental work because they had never seen a dentist before, said Peggy Mackinnon, Delta Dental Foundation spokesperson.
The new program's goal is that children and families will be able to develop relationships with their dentists, and that will help the dentists provide the best kind of education and long-term treatment.
"We're hoping that with these grants, clinics will be able to establish themselves as the primary care center for these kids," Springer said. "(The dentists) are going to establish a relationship with them and establish a trust because that is the dentist they will see on a regular basis."
Northwest Colorado Dental Care expects to use the money on a case-by-case basis, thereby not limiting each recipient to a certain number of visits, Pearcey said.
"We need to make an impact on as many as we can, but mostly those in severe need," she said.
In its normal business, Northwest Colorado Dental Care can only accept patients who can establish family earnings are no more than twice the federally regulated poverty level. The Delta Dental grant allows them to use the money for families that earn up to three times that threshold.
"Our clients all need to qualify," Pearcey said. "Now we have some money to help those families that fall outside of our cutoff."
Though $20,000 is not enough to care for every uninsured child or low-income family, Pearcey is more than grateful.
"No, this is great," Pearcey said. "Every little bit helps, but the magnitude of oral health and disease (in all the counties we serve) is significant."