Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation: Funding targeted oral health solutions to Arkansans who need it [North Metro Business Journal]

Foundation seeks partners for 2020

Delta Dental of Arkansas formed the Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation in 2008 to further its mission of improving the oral health of all Arkansans. For more than a decade, the dental insurance company has donated at least 30 percent of its net income from operations to its Foundation, contributing more than $22 million and impacting the lives of over 650,000 Arkansans. So far in 2019, the Foundation has invested nearly $1.1 million in communities across the state to support oral-health related programs and initiatives.

Ed Choate, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Arkansas, said the company encourages its Foundation to “spend every penny” to ensure underserved people across Arkansas receive the dental care they need.

“The intent is to be more transformational through funding,” Choate said. “Our goal is to have a strategic focus which has a collective impact across our state. The need is there; we just have to find the right partners who can really make a difference in improving people’s oral health.”

Chrissy Chatham is executive director of the Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation. She echoed the state’s need for improved oral health, stating that Arkansas ranks last among the 50 states and the District of Columbia when it comes to oral health.

“For some, oral health is considered a luxury, especially for individuals who struggle financially,” Chatham said. “We would love for every Arkansan to integrate oral health care into their routine and for us to raise awareness about the importance of oral health.”

Choate added that oral health goes beyond the cosmetic and even transcends physical health – for some, it’s an economic issue.

“For those who lose their teeth entirely, getting access to dentures or implants can mean the difference between unemployable and employable. Transformations like these –” he said as he flashed a before-and-after picture of smiling patient “–are what excite us.”

Delta Dental of Arkansas does not have dentists on staff to provide dental services. Rather, the Foundation equips nonprofit organizations with funds for dental care and equipment as well as for oral health education and training. In some parts of the state, it is difficult to find charitable organizations that provide oral health education, prevention and treatment.

“Finding partners in the right areas of the state where the need exists can be a challenge,” said Choate. “In the Delta, for example, there are fewer dentists because there is not a heavy concentration of people, but the need for oral health care is great.

“If there is not a charitable clinic in the community, we cannot provide dental care. However, we can get creative in how we help that community improve the oral health of its people.”

In 2017, Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation invested $1.4 million to improve the oral health of Arkansans. These funds ranged from more than $450,000 in community grants to distributing close to 80,000 toothbrushes to nonprofit organizations, churches, libraries, and school-based health care programs. The Foundation issued more than $24,000 in mini grants, which support oral health projects that are designed to have an immediate impact in communities.

School-based grants totaled $27,200 in 2017, giving students across the state access to oral health education, treatment, and training. The Foundation also provides ongoing funding in the form of legacy grants to support dental clinics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the CARTI Cancer Center, and Arkansas Children’s Hospital. The total legacy grant funding for 2017 was $420,000.

“We want to bring targeted solutions to the people who need it and invest funds in the right way so we can bring the best value for the community,” Choate said.

Community grants take the lion’s share of the Foundation’s contributions. Community grants are annual grants up to $30,000 that seek to establish a sustainable presence in communities and work to improve oral health on an ongoing basis. These grants support a variety of oral health programs and initiatives, including dental education and charitable dental clinics, like Arkansas Mission of Mercy.

Headed by Conway dentist Dr. Terry Fiddler, the two-day charitable dental clinic, sponsored by the Arkansas State Dental Association, provides dental care free of charge to more than 2,000 underserved Arkansans. The clinic takes place annually in cities across the state and will return to Conway in 2020. For the past 13 years, Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation has been a major sponsor of Arkansas Mission of Mercy and has contributed more than $1 million to the dental clinic since its inception.

The Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation provided $100,000 to support the 2017 Arkansas Mission of Mercy event, Arkansas’ largest free oral health event.

The Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation provided $100,000 to support the 2017 Arkansas Mission of Mercy event, Arkansas’ largest free oral health event.

Arkansas-based nonprofit or community organizations are eligible to apply for community grant funding through the Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation from June to August of each year.

The grant cycle to submit applications for community grants is underway and will remain open through Aug. 30, 2019. Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation will announce the grant recipients by December 2019 and will award the funds in January 2020. The Foundation’s board approved funding for up to $500,000 in community grants to be awarded in 2020. An online application is available at

To learn more about the work of Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation, visit

This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of the North Metro Business Journal.