One in three Dane County residents lacks dental insurance according to Affordable Dental Care, whose mission is to restore hope, health, and opportunity through quality dentistry to the underinsured, uninsured, and underserved. At this Sunday’s Fifth Annual Smileathon, the greater Madison community will have a chance to come out and support the services Affordable Dental Care provides to the greater Madison community.
“We’re trying to create awareness about the lack of access to oral health,” Areli Estrada, executive director of Affordable Dental Care, tells Madison365. “At the same time, we want to let our community know that we are creating access, we are trying to address health disparities and health outcomes. And by people donating to the Smileathon, people are able to contribute to our mission to continue to deliver this quality care and help us to sustain our day-to-day operations of the clinic.”
The Smileathon is the largest fundraiser for Affordable Dental Care, a nonprofit charitable organization located on Madison’s North Side that provides quality dentistry.
“We were established in 2009 as a nonprofit, and we serve people that do not have insurance … the uninsured and underinsured. We are really creating access for those in the gap,” Estrada says.
“Oral health has a large impact on general medical and psychological health,” Estrada continues. “And we lovingly provide full general dentistry without the traditional fees. Oral health is linked to our systemic health. And if we prolong and ignore it … if we don’t take care of our teeth — of our oral health — eventually the rest of our organs will start being affected. The bacteria starts spreading through the rest of our organs. Eighty percent of the people we serve suffer from gum disease.”
Affordable Dental Care (ADC), in partnership with the Madison Marathon, is gearing up to host its annual Smileathon on Sunday, Nov. 13, 7 a.m.- 1 p.m. Community members will meet in the parking lot of ADC (2110 Fordem Ave.) on Sunday morning and participants can run the 10k or run the full Madison Marathon, pledging to donate and support ADC.
“It’s a peer-to-peer fundraiser. So we have people that are supporting our mission running for our cause,” Estrada says. “People run through the ‘Smile Mile,’ so we’re going to be right outside our clinic in our parking lot. We have a water station and an area where collaborators and supporters will gather and support the runners.”
The Smile Mile is a section that runs right outside the ADC clinic with professional photography, music, and a cheer section.
“We’re going to be giving out hot drinks, coffee, cider, and have some breakfast pastries, and then we’re going to have a DJ and people run through our clinic,” she adds.
For people who can’t make it to Sunday’s Smileathon, they can still support the event by running, biking, swimming, or walking any distance or completing any activity by or on Nov. 13 from wherever they may be.
This will be the fifth annual event. “Basically it’s our only fundraiser … we don’t have any other. As a nonprofit, it is so critical to be able to seek unrestricted funds,” she says. “This fundraiser really helps us to sustain the day-to-day operations of our clinic. It’s very crucial for us.”
Services are in high demand as the organization is constantly growing. Last year, services increased by 20 percent and ADC successfully accomplished 5,937 dental procedures, nearly 2,800 patient care visits, and satisfied more than 500 emergency visits.
“At Affordable Dental Care, this is a place of no judgment. I love it so much because we treat everyone with the dignity and respect that they deserve,” Estrada says. “One of our core values is compassionate care. We look at everyone with so much love and compassion.
“We’re able to just provide more of that comfort care for patients and we truly take care of them,” she adds.
Estrada is originally from Nayarit, Mexico, and grew up in Los Angeles. She has been the executive director of Affordable Dental Care for a little over a year, starting in August 2021. She points out that not only are one in three people without access to dental insurance, but 36 percent of the population here in Wisconsin also have no dental home. Last year, Affordable Dental Care had nearly 2,800 patient care visits and 1,300 of those were unique visits.
“A smile is the universal language. The people that come to us have not been to a dentist in decades. It could be 15 years, 20 years or never,” Estrada says. “So when they come to us, we really are giving them their smile back and it transformed their lives. Some people are able to get a job. Patients share with us how much their life changes. [They say,] ‘Now I’m able to smile’ or ‘now I’m feeling so much more confident.’
“So we’re really able to change that narrative by giving them their smiles back,” she adds.
Estrada says that ADC’s partner-powered model treats any individual who has put off dental care due to financial, physical, or educational inequities. The organization does not accept insurance or compete with private practice dentistry or government community health care. Rather, it exists to fill the gap of patients who fall into neither of those categories and need a dentist.
This year the Smileathon hopes to raise $65,000 for ADC. People can go to the website and make a donation to Smileathon all the way through the event date, Nov. 13.
“Many people are self-medicating and their oral health is deteriorating. They are missing work and school due to pain and filling emergency rooms. We can prevent all of this pain by just creating access,” Estrada says. “People should not go to an emergency room for oral health-related issues and, unfortunately, that tends to happen a lot. There are a lot of people who go to the ER for tooth-related problems and we’re trying to solve that.
“Our mission is to close the gap in the crisis of access to dental care by restoring hope, health and opportunity through quality dentistry, to the uninsured and underinsured,” she adds. “We believe that people are able to gain some sort of hope through accessing dental care. They feel hopeful about transforming and changing their lives … and it’s really fascinating to be able to see that and experience that.”
The Fifth Annual Smileathon will be held on Sunday, Nov. 13, 7 a.m.- 1 p.m. To find out how to sign up for the Madison Marathon or to support the event at the Smileathon watch party, check out the Facebook event page or click here. There are still sponsorship opportunities available as well.