Nicole McGrath-Barnes was a dentist in private practice in North Jersey and serving as a program dentist for a local Head Start program when she learned of a family having difficulty finding a dentist willing to treat a child suffering from an abscess.
So she decided to begin treating children in need for free. In 2007, she founded KinderSmile Foundation, based in Bloomfield, and for the last few years, that Foundation has provided free oral health education and care to 15,000 children in four North Jersey counties.
Now KinderSmile is coming to Trenton thanks to the George H. and Estelle M. Sands Foundation.
Deborah Sands Gartenberg of the Sands Foundation knew about the critical need for Trenton’s children to have access to oral healthcare, and Dr. Eric Schwartz, the Executive Director of Capital Health’s Institute for Urban Care knew about the dental services that KinderSmile was providing for children in North Jersey.
So, Schwartz introduced the women to each other. After Debbie took a tour of the Bloomfield dental home and followed up with in-depth research, the Sands Foundation decided to make a commitment to help bring the KinderSmile Foundation Oral Health Care Program to Trenton.
The Sands Foundation provided significant funding, including a $600,000 challenge grant. KinderSmile is now working to match those funds. The Burke Foundation, based in Princeton, is among the funders that provided a grant to help the nonprofit meet the challenge.
“The funding has been extremely helpful,” said Nicole, the Founder and CEO of the KinderSmile Foundation. “We’re looking for other funders and donors to help us realize this project so we can provide oral care access and education for Trenton and the surrounding community.”
Nicole says the dental office – which she calls a dental home – at 101 North Broad Street, Trenton, will have 13 chairs and provide comprehensive services for patients who are uninsured and underserved.
“We know that there’s a dire need for access to dental care in Trenton,” said Nicole. “We accept all patients – children and adults – but our main focus is on children.”
To complement the dental home, the nonprofit will provide a variety of community programs, including a mobile dental clinic that will serve patients at the sites of partner organizations, including nonprofits, schools and healthcare institutions. Through that mobile clinic, the nonprofit will offer oral health education programs, as well as diagnostic and preventative services.
“There will be a plethora of programs to increase oral care access and education and we will link those children back to our dental home,” she said.
The average annual cost of a typical child receiving an exam, cleaning, fluoride, x-rays and three to four cavities is $620.
“We expect to see far worse in Trenton just from the families we recently treated in our Bloomfield office. Each child had more than six cavities,” Nicole said, adding that the majority of the children in Trenton do not have access to oral healthcare.
They also plan to partner with local schools to provide a mentorship program for students, and they will run an oral health education program for at-risk, uninsured moms-to-be.
They expect to begin the mobile visits in February and hope to have the dental home open in late Spring. It will include weekend and evening hours for working parents, because, Nicole said, 53 million hours of school are missed annually nationwide because of oral disease.
KinderSmile will have a paid staff and will also seek volunteer services from local dentists.
“We want to open our doors to provide quality services so patients don’t end up in the emergency room,” Nicole said. “Why go to the hospital when you can come here? We’re helping taxpayers by defraying the cost.”
Oral health is the gateway to total health, she said.
“We’re in the community and for the community in terms of access to care,” she said. “We want this to be a hub where everyone can access to quality care.”
To make a donation or learn more about the KinderSmile Foundation, visit their website at http://www.kindersmile.org/. To recommend a grant through your Donor Advised Fund at the Community Foundation, visit the Donor Central portal on our website, www.pacf.org.