Dental services provider Kool Smiles has provided $6.8 million in uncompensated care since 2006 for more than 161,000 patients in South Carolina who do not have access to the Medicaid dental benefit or other dental insurance, and could not afford to pay out of pocket, the company said in a news release.
"At Kool Smiles, we believe every family deserves high-quality, affordable and compassionate dental care," Brad Bryan, managing dental director for Kool Smiles, said in a news release. "Our mission is to provide a dental home to every family who needs one by accepting insurance plans — including Medicaid and Tricare.
About one-third of all dentists accept Medicaid or other public insurance, according to a 2014 survey from the American Dental Association's Health Policy Institute. Without access to preventive dental care, many patients are left to seek expensive emergency dental care for unaddressed oral health needs, the release said. According to a 2015 report from the ADA, there were more than 2 million dental-related visits to hospital emergency rooms, which accounted for about $1.6 billion in health costs.
Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among U.S. children, five times more prevalent than asthma, according to a 2016 Pew Charitable Trusts report. Dental care is one of the nation's greatest unmet health needs among children, especially in low-income, minority and rural communities, the release added.
In South Carolina, 12% of third-grade students had untreated tooth cavities in 2013, according to the State Oral Health Survey.
Founded in 2002, Marietta, Ga.-headquartered Kool Smiles has nine dental practices in South Carolina, primarily in underserved communities that have historically lacked access to dental care. The company also provide oral health education and outreach programs through partnerships with community schools and organizations.