10:17 AM

Taking a Bite out of Tooth Decay Among Kids, New Grants Will Bring Vital Dental Services and Education Services to Underserved Children

To reach more children in need, Horizon doubles funding for Kids Oral Health Program


With one in four children from low-income families suffering from untreated tooth decay -- twice the rate of children from higher-income households -- Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (Horizon BCBSNJ) is intensifying its efforts to bring brighter smiles to those children.

A shortage of dentists and family financial constraints – a parent unable to take time from work or pay for their child’s dental care – are among the chief obstacles preventing children in lower-income families from getting the dental care they need. When ignored, common dental problems in children can have costly and substantial long-term consequences. Untreated dental disease impairs a child’s ability to eat, sleep, and function well at home and at school and can also adversely impact a child’s self-esteem and social development.

Horizon BCBSNJ created the Kids Oral Health Program (KOHP) in 2016 to help address these obstacles and provided $500,000 in grants to non-profit organizations that brought dental care and education programs to New Jersey communities shown to have the greatest need.

According to results from the KOHP’s first two years, 15,000 kids in 11 counties participated in school and community-based programs that taught them and their families how to take care of their teeth and gums. The grants also funded direct dental care including:

  • Applied sealants that protect teeth from decay to more than 3,000 children

  • Filled cavities for 828 patients

  • Completed fluoride treatments, which have been proven to prevent tooth decay in children, for 3700 children.

    ”Where children live should never prevent them from getting the care they need, whether that care is delivered by a pediatrician, dentist or another health professional,” said Joseph Albano, Vice President of Horizon BCBSNJ’s Commercial and Specialty Markets, which includes the company’s dental business of more than one million members. “Working with our community partners, we have made remarkable progress in helping children from low income families see a dentist, and this new investment will lead to healthier kids and healthier smiles across New Jersey. Prevention and wellness are at the center of Horizon’s efforts to improve the quality and overall cost of care for our members and all of New Jersey.”

    To build on and accelerate this progress, Horizon BCBSNJ is doubling its commitment with a new round of two-year grants totaling $500,000. The grants, made through the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, to eight organizations that will serve approximately 13,500 children.

    The grantees, and the high-need counties they serve, include:


  • Gracious Smiles Camden County

  • KinderSmile Foundation Essex, Morris and Passaic

  • Metropolitan Family Health Network, Inc. Hudson

  • NJ Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics Essex, Hudson, Mercer and Passaic

  • Newark Community Health Centers Essex

  • Rutgers School of Dental Medicine Essex

  • Gateway Community Action Partnership Cumberland and Salem

  • Zufall Health Center Morris and Warren

    The next phase of KOHP grants will focus on four areas to address the prevalence of preventable and treatable conditions of the teeth and gums of children up to age 18:

    Education and awareness, including school and community-based awareness programs and parental engagement;

    Prevention, including screenings, cleanings, sealants and the establishment of pediatric dental homes;

    Treatment, including critical oral health treatments, such as examination, emergency care and other urgent interventions;

    Professional Development, including improved collaboration among dentists and pediatricians to integrate care for children.

    “Kids need the best start possible to help maintain good overall health over a lifetime, and the Kids’ Oral Health program is focused on making that possible,” said Jonathan Pearson, Executive Director of The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey. “We are asking grantees to dedicate their efforts on prevention and treatment so New Jersey can win the battle against the most common and chronic childhood disease -- tooth decay.”

About Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, the state's oldest and largest health insurer is a tax-paying, not-for-profit health service corporation, providing a wide array of medical, dental, vision and prescription insurance products and services. Horizon BCBSNJ is leading the transformation of health care in New Jersey by working with doctors and hospitals to deliver innovative, patient-centered programs that reward the quality, not quantity, of care patients receive. Learn more at www.HorizonBlue.com. Horizon BCBSNJ is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association serving more than 3.8 million members.

About The Horizon Foundation For New Jersey

The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey is committed to working alongside those who can help us improve our neighbors’ health, inform their health decisions and inspire them to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives. The Foundation’s funding pillars are Caring, Connecting and Creating. Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is the sole member of The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, both of which are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more information please visit www.Horizonblue.com/Foundation