Oral Health Needs In Tennessee Deserve Attention

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – (June 4, 2019) – Low-income Tennesseans often struggle to find and afford good oral care. Community partners all over the state are coming together for a week in June to draw attention to this problem and help Tennesseans get back their healthy smiles. Governor Bill Lee, in conjunction with the Tennessee Charitable Care Network, has proclaimed June 10-14, 2019, Tennessee Oral Health Smile Power Week.

Smile Power Week was created to promote healthy smiles across Tennessee during National Smile Month, but many Tennesseans aren’t smiling. According to research by the American Dental Association, 45% of low-income adults say they avoid smiling, and 68% of them sometimes find life in general less satisfying due to the condition of their mouths and teeth.

Many simply aren’t able to afford a dental visit. An overwhelming majority (86%) of low-income adults cite cost as the main reason they haven’t been to the dentist. Tennessee is one of only three states in the nation whose Medicaid program does not provide dental benefits, and those who rely on Medicaid for care often need help.

Smile Power Week educates Tennesseans about the importance of oral health, and it’s an opportunity to showcase the important work being done in communities across the state by free and charitable clinics. The clinics provide help and education about good oral health habits, which leads to less pain, healthier smiles and improved lives for many Tennesseans.

“Because there remains an overall need for dental services for people of all ages, we are grateful to Delta Dental of Tennessee and its Smile180 Foundation for their generous support of our state’s free and charitable clinics,” said Mary Kiger, Executive Director, Tennessee Charitable Care Network. “These clinics are dramatically improving the lives of patients by relieving their pain and often restoring function to the mouth.”

During Smile Power Week, celebrations and educational events will take place in dental clinics from Bristol to Memphis, and Marshall Molar, Delta Dental of Tennessee’s Official Ambassador of Smiles, will be visiting patients at children’s hospitals in Memphis, Jackson, Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville and Johnson City, along with other events.

“We are excited to help launch the fourth annual Smile Power Week in Tennessee on June 10,” said Dr. Phil Wenk, President and CEO of Delta Dental of Tennessee. “Last year, Tennessee’s charitable dental clinics provided more than 34,600 procedures to Tennesseans who would have otherwise not received care. We know that the power of smiling changes lives, and we are proud to partner with dental clinics to help their communities smile.”


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 $5.2 million to over 120 organizations in 2018, and employees shared 2,378 volunteer hours in the community.

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.