We're All Smiles

Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation Community Update

For more than 20 years, Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation has been working to make good oral health a community priority. Traditionally our work was driven by our mission to eradicate childhood tooth decay. However, we were reaching beyond this focus. In 2017, the board and staff began a strategic planning process. The results informed an expanded population focus and new mission: to elevate the well-being of all Coloradans by advancing oral health equity.

Today, we envision a world where everyone can achieve their best oral health. There isn’t one solution that will address all oral health inequities. Social determinants, such as race and ethnicity, income, geography and age, greatly impact a person’s smile. Our goal is to create accessible oral health care across a lifespan.

We are deepening our understanding of oral health equity. By expanding our partnerships and collaborating with communities across the state, we intend to reach people who have been historically overlooked. We are helping to improve the oral health of all Coloradans.

Board leadership and direction is a key part of our work. Thank you to outgoing board chair, Terry Koele, for serving on our board for nine years. Terry is pictured here with current board chair, Marilyn Taylor, and Allison Cusick, executive director.

In 2017, the foundation contributed $3.23 million in funding to support innovative programs that improve oral health and overall well-being.

Executive Director Allison Cusick introduces our new mission and explains the foundation's focus and commitment to oral health equity.

Health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity to “attain his or her full health potential” and no one is “disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of social position or other socially determined circumstances.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017

Our Focus Areas

We create sustainable, measurable impact within three focus areas:

Access to Care

All Coloradans have affordable, accessible and comprehensive oral health care.

Prevention of Tooth Decay

Effective programs are available for prevention and early intervention of tooth decay.

Connections to Overall Health

Oral health is included as a vital part of overall health.

Looking at oral health in Colorado

People who have been historically overlooked are dealing with health inequities in many Colorado communities. As part of our strategic planning process, we partnered with the Colorado Health Institute to conduct a statewide oral health environmental scan, which provides statewide perspective and pinpoints health disparities. We shared the results and discussed next steps with our partners at a September convening hosted at the Colorado Health Foundation.

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Initiative Highlights

Colorado Medical-Dental Integration Project

Launched in 2015, the Colorado Medical-Dental Integration (CO MDI) Project:

  • Integrates registered dental hygienists into medical care teams.
  • Received a $750,000 grant to support Wave II from the Colorado Health Foundation.
  • Released the CO MDI Toolkit to train grantees. This how-to guide is available for medical organizations seeking to fully integrate a dental hygienist into a medical care team.

“While the state’s average dentist to patient ratio is one to 1,350, Phillips County sits at one to 4,363. According to data from the Colorado Health Institute and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the people of Holyoke and surrounding areas have 70 percent less access to care than their urban counterparts. Melissa Memorial’s selection as a CO MDI grantee means that more people in our community will now have the opportunity to improve their oral health.”

- Trampas Hutches
chief executive officer, Melissa Memorial Hospital, Holyoke, Colorado

Public Will Building

Wrapping up our 5-year public will building efforts, results from the 2017 Cavities Get Around statewide survey show:

More parents recognize the benefits of drinking tap water (up 16 points from 2015 to 60%), although daily consumption of water among children remained flat at 60%.

The percentage of participants who said their kids are drinking juice at least once a day decreased significantly, from 47% in 2015 to 35% in 2017.

The perception of fruit juice’s nutritional value dropped significantly since 2015 (-24 points) among parents who saw campaign advertising.

Teaming up to eliminate childhood tooth decay in Pueblo and surrounding communities, the South Eastern Colorado Area Health Education Center (SECAHEC) engages volunteers to meet with the community in their familiar spaces. SECAHEC volunteer and intern Jasmine Hall talked to KOAA about building public will and using the Cavities Get Around campaign messaging in her Women, Infants, Children (WIC) outreach.

Partner Highlights

Every community has unique needs, assets and priorities.

We partner with organizations to address community needs and implement activities to improve oral health in Colorado. Highlights of these relationships include:

A Qualistar early child care professional teaches a child how to brush her teeth at a Denver Healthy Smiles Summit.
Denver Public Health

Denver Public Health completed evaluation reports on the utilization of newly installed water filling stations primarily serving low-income children at six schools and one recreation center in metro Denver and Pueblo. In fall 2018, they will help promote the use of the Water Activation Influencer Toolkit to increase access to and consumption of water in schools and community centers throughout Colorado.

Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus

Since opening in 2015, the Village of Healthy Smiles exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus has had more than 550,000 visitors.

Clinica Family Health

Through an innovation grant, Clinica Family Health worked to integrate dental data with physical health data in the care planner. This helped diminish isolation between the two domains and achieve care planning that is collaborative and coordinated.

Bright By Three

Bright By Text oral health texts were refreshed with new content, images and links to more resources. In 2017, 150,000+ texts were sent to Colorado families.


Cavity Free Kids trainings reached 194 professionals serving 1,033 children. Trainings occurred in Durango, Fort Morgan, Loveland, Fort Collins, Denver, Thornton, Limon, Southwest Denver, Lakewood and Delta.

University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine

Training dental, medical and pharmacy students together to identify the connection between oral health and physical health, the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine concluded its first semester of a collaborative program with Johnson & Wales University where students learned how to cook nutritious meals together. The culinary class was featured in stories in The Denver Post and CW2.

American Dental Hygienists’ Association

In July, we hosted "National Trends Impacting The Future of Dental Hygiene", which featured Ann Batrell, chief executive officer of the American Dental Hygienists' Association. Batrell explored emerging national trends in oral health and dental hygiene; presented thoughts about the future of dental hygiene; and outlined levers for change. In addition, the lecture provided continuing education credits for hygienists.

From the Blog

NOV 30, 2017

Closing the Gap Between Medical and Dental Care Visits

Read More
AUG 10, 2017

Mission Critical: Programs That Improve Oral Health in Vulnerable Communities

Read More
JUN 13, 2017

Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation: Making Moves Across the State

Read More
MAY 18, 2017

Partnering Helps Communities Learn About Oral Health

Read More
APR 20, 2017

Hygienist Breaks Down Access to Dental Care Barriers in Rural Colorado

Read More
MAR 23, 2017

Colorado Kids Leading the Way with Healthy Choices

Read More

Finances & Who We Are


As a 501(c)(3) funded by the nonprofit Delta Dental of Colorado, we are grateful to the company and Board of Trustees for the financial support they provide for our work. Approximately 89% of our budget expenditures directly support our programs and initiatives. In 2017, we also partnered with the Colorado Health Foundation to combine funding that supported our CO MDI Wave II grantees.

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2018 Board of Directors

Marilyn E. Taylor, Board Chair
Cathy Garcia, Governance Chair
Mary Noonan, Finance Chair
Scott Hamilton, DDS
Eric France, MD, MSPH
Helen Drexler, DDCO President & CEO
Richard Call, DMD, MS
Kim Kretsch, DDS
Luella Chavez D’Angelo
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Allison Cusick, Executive Director
Monica Woods, Executive Assistant
Megan Wilson, Director of Programs
Amy Maillet, Communications Manager
Cherith Flowerday, Program Officer
Marybeth Goodwin, Senior Program Officer
Mirella Chavez, Associate Program Officer
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