Smileathon 2023: Running for Affordable Dental Care and Brighter Smiles

As autumn ushers in its cool embrace and the Madison Marathon approaches, there’s more to this year’s event than just the thrill of the run. November 13 marks the fifth annual Smileathon, a heartwarming initiative by Affordable Dental Care, aimed at raising $80,000 to support their noble cause. This year, they invite not only seasoned runners but also individuals from all walks of life to join their mission by securing donations from family and friends and participating in the 10k, half marathon, or full marathon. And if running isn’t your forte, fear not; you can still make a meaningful contribution by seeking donations and sponsors for any activity that suits your fancy—whether it’s walking, biking, swimming, or anything else that brings a smile to your face.

The Smileathon is more than just a race; it’s a collective effort to make dental care accessible to those who need it most. Affordable Dental Care, an organization with a heart of gold, provides vital services to Dane County residents who often fall through the gaps of traditional healthcare systems. Executive director Areli Estrada emphasizes that their mission is to serve the uninsured and underinsured individuals who lack access to dental insurance and don’t qualify for government programs or free clinics.

One of the striking statistics that underscores the urgency of their mission is that approximately one in three Dane County residents lack dental insurance. For this sizable portion of the population, Affordable Dental Care steps in as a beacon of hope. Estrada clarifies their unique role, stating, “We don’t take insurance; we don’t compete with private practice dentistry or community health centers. But we provide access to fill the gap for those that do not fit into either category for government assistance or private insurance.”

Affordable Dental Care is not driven by profit, unlike private dental practices that can generate millions in revenue. Instead, their focus remains on serving the community and reinvesting every resource they receive to enhance their services. The clinic’s dedication to this mission is palpable, as they have expanded their services by a commendable 20 percent in 2022.

In 2021 alone, the clinic performed approximately 5,900 procedures on roughly 2,800 patients. These procedures included 500 emergency dental interventions, all of which were managed by one full-time dentist and one full-time hygienist. This year, the clinic is poised to further bolster its impact with the addition of another hygienist and another part-time dentist. Additionally, they benefit from the generosity of two volunteer dentists who selflessly contribute their time and expertise to the cause.

The Smileathon takes on a special significance as it coincides with the Madison Marathon, with all three races—the 10k, half marathon, and full marathon—passing through the “Smile Mile.” This symbolic route guides runners past the Affordable Dental Care Clinic on Fordem Avenue, where dedicated staff and volunteers will be on hand to offer hot drinks, water, and a plethora of entertainment throughout the day. It’s a moment when the community comes together to run for a brighter, healthier future and, quite literally, brighter smiles.

Affordable Dental Care understands that dental health is an integral component of overall well-being, and their mission transcends oral care. It’s about ensuring that everyone, regardless of their financial circumstances, can access the healthcare they deserve. By participating in the Smileathon, you become an essential part of this mission, contributing to the day-to-day operations of the clinic and touching the lives of countless individuals in Dane County.

So, as you lace up your running shoes or prepare for your chosen activity on November 13, remember that your strides or strokes are not just a physical feat but a powerful gesture of compassion. Your participation in the Smileathon can turn miles into smiles, making affordable dental care a reality for those in need. Together, we can create a brighter and healthier future, one step or stroke at a time.

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