Dr. Les Maes, DDS for Kids in Need of Dentistry (KIND) and donated supplies from KIND at the start of the pandemic.
In March of 2020 Dr. Les Maes stood in front of his truck, which was almost overflowing with PPE.
Dr. Maes, dentist for Kids in Need of Dentistry (KIND), watched the early days of the virus with much the same thoughts as everyone else: how could he help keep everyone safe?
Shortly after Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued a suspension of nonessential dental procedures and just before the statewide Stay-at-Home order, Dr. Maes and Director of Outreach Services, Lisa Valdez, RDH, had their answer. The team was able to quickly inventory and organize critical PPE equipment for delivery to frontline workers.
Racing between multiple program locations and KIND’s business offices, Dr. Maes and Lisa spent an entire day gathering as many pieces of PPE as possible.
“With the help of KIND’s three clinic locations and our Chopper Topper program, we were able to donate 105 boxes of gloves, 97 boxes of masks, and 3 cases of isolation gowns,” said Dr. Maes, “KIND wanted to donate our PPE so that health care workers and essential personnel could use those supplies to battle the virus.”
There are so many different perspectives during COVID-19 and for KIND it was no different. What does a pediatric dental non-profit do during a global pandemic crisis? Like many others, pivot. What is KIND to do when its main outreach program, Chopper Topper (that serves thousands of Colorado schoolchildren each year), is unable to function due to massive school closures? Remain positive and fight for innovative new ways to serve!
For over 100 years, KIND has served children in need of dental care, and since 1998, KIND has partnered with Denver area elementary schools to provide Chopper Topper for students with limited access. This mobile dental sealant program normally travels to schools to provide dental screenings, preventive sealants, oral health education and referrals at no cost to children in need. With Colorado schools closed Lisa, Chopper Topper’s director, knew she would need to find creative ways to stay engaged with KIND families. And during the most trying of times, KIND understood the importance of being more than just a health resource and continued striving to be a trusted ally to its community.
As a gesture of kindness to patients, Lisa worked with KIND’s Community Dental Health Coordinator, Erin Metz, RDH, to develop a KIND Cares Kit delivery program at KIND; organizing staffers and volunteers to contactlessly provide these to community members, patients, and other nonprofits, all while maintaining social distancing. Kits contained tools for at-home prevention for healthy mouths and bodies, much-needed nutritious food and information on how to access teledental services at KIND to provide accessible care options to families hit hardest by the pandemic.
KIND closely monitored ADA and CDC guidance for dental practices and as always, remained a community resource and support for patients. The KIND clinic phone line proudly remained open and patient care continued at the three Denver-area clinic locations.
KIND also took the time to adapt and ramp up efforts, in the following areas:
- Intensifying dental service integration into primary and mental healthcare delivery
- Teledentistry—for low-access communities (and to comply with social distancing)
- Integrating the provision of healthy food and beverages to families in KIND Cares Kits, while simultaneously increasing perceived links between healthy foods and a healthy mouth and body.
KIND also continued to focus on systems-level advocacy for dental care through partnerships with local and national stakeholders, such as:
- The American Dental Association's Community Dental Health Coordinator (CDHC) certification: Prevention and Care Navigation-focused training for oral health professionals to improve oral health outcomes among those at the greatest risk for untreated disease.
- The University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine's Advanced Clinical Training and Service Program (ACTS): A service-based learning program exposing young dentists to public dentistry, while also providing dental services to nonprofits with limited resources.
KIND firmly believes we must not trade one health crisis for another and while almost 100% preventable -- unchecked oral disease has escalating, compounding, and costly impacts including those related to mental/chronic health, nutritional and educational issues. Now, more than ever, the most impactful way to support the efforts of KIND is with financial contributions. Investing in KIND's infrastructure now will provide the critically needed funding to meet increased need in the months that lie ahead.
Dr. Krista Barnes