The Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation is giving more than $3 million in grants to Colorado nonprofit organizations to improve community oral health.

One organization in El Paso County benefiting from these grant dollars is Mission Medical.  

All the dentists who work there are volunteers, but they need equipment and other supplies. This is where the grant comes in. It will help them serve more people who make too much money to be on Medicaid, but still can’t afford a dental plan.  

After driving a bus for 13 years, it was time for Fred Sears to retire, but that also meant losing his health benefits.  

“It’s been tough finding a dental plan I can afford,” Sears said. “Basically, we just did everything we could to cover the family, and dental kind of went on the back burner.”

Now he has some pretty significant issues, and the only way he is able to get dental care is through Mission Medical.  

“I’ve had six teeth pulled in different places and they are trying to save what they can,” Sears said. “They have a few more fillings to go.”

Dr. Darrel Kneupper said it’s better to be proactive when it comes to your teeth. 

“It is a big deal,” he said. “Don’t wait. The longer you wait, the more intense the problems become, the more intense the suffering can be, and the more intense the costs are for managing that.”

Sears isn’t the only one in this situation.  

Delta Dental said 30 percent of El Paso County did not have dental insurance in 2017. That’s compared to 7 percent who didn’t have health insurance.  

“They have to make the difficult decision of paying for insurance and copays or putting food on the table for their families,” said Barb Cronin, Executive Director of Mission Medical.  

“If it wouldn’t have been for this program, I would have had no teeth,” Sears said.  

Now because of the grant from Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation, they’re serving more people and spreading more smiles.  

“They become new people when we give them something to smile with and smile about,” Kneupper said. “So that’s why I do it.”

With the $30,000 grant, they will be able to serve 20 percent more patients and get new a new digital x-ray machine, which will save them a lot of time.