South Charlotte

Helping children keep their smiles

The goal of Fern Ingber's organization is big, healthy smiles.

Ingber is president of National Children's Oral Health Foundation, also known as America's Toothfairy. It's a nonprofit organization she helped found in 2006 to address pediatric dental disease among underserved populations.

America's Toothfairy has distributed more than $9 million in financial grants and products from their headquarters near Park Road Shopping Center.

"Our goal is to break the cycle of disease by changing lives through an integrated approach ... that not only includes treatment but prevention, education and programming," she said. "Pediatric dental disease is nearly 100 percent preventable."

The organization works through an affiliate network throughout the U.S. that includes nonprofit dental centers, university dental schools, community clinics and volunteer dental professionals.

"We have touched over 1 million children since our inception," said Ingber. "These are children that need the most, have the least and are too often last to receive such services."

The organization also provides supplies for community health fairs. It provides oral health screenings, fluoride and sealants to prevent tooth decay, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Two signature programs finding great success are the Oral Health Zone and Tomorrow's Smiles.

The Oral Health Zone is a community approach that engages stakeholders through education and information sessions in a comprehensive approach to breaking the cycle of severe tooth decay. Oral Health Zone goes to area schools, faith institutions and businesses and connects community leaders with dental health professionals.

Tomorrow's Smiles is a preventative approach geared toward teenagers; it provides free treatment to pre-screened and motivated teens.

"We've seen a dramatic impact in the communities we serve, yet we aspire to do so much more," Ingber said. "We are growing our affiliate network, and as more people become aware of what we do, we continue to attract additional levels of support."