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January 2018
Volume 39, Issue 1

Oral Health America Annual Gala & Benefit a Key Event in Supporting Healthy Mouths

Beth Truett, MDiv, BS

For 28 years, Oral Health America's (OHA) Annual Gala & Benefit has heralded the arrival of the Chicago Midwinter Dental Meeting. Held the night before the beginning of Midwinter, the Gala is both a key fundraiser and premier networking event, bringing together more than 700 dental professionals and supporters from 300 companies, dozens of private practices, and several other organizations.

The Annual Gala & Benefit is OHA's largest fundraiser of the year and brings in much-needed funds to raise awareness about the importance of oral health. This highly anticipated evening features a cocktail reception, dinner, and dancing, accompanied by an impressive silent auction, a limited-ticket raffle that includes fine jewelry, new technology, sports memorabilia, and much more. All proceeds from the event underwrite OHA's mission to connect communities with resources to improve access to care, increase health literacy, and raise awareness about the importance of oral health's impact on overall health for all Americans, especially those more vulnerable. Thanks to the funds raised at this event, OHA's programs now serve more than 1 million children and older adults in 47 states and one US territory.

Each year, an individual whose career significantly impacted oral health on a regional or national level is honored with the Gala Tribute Award. Honorees meet several key criteria, including being innovative, creative, and pioneering; demonstrating positive, measurable change over a sustained period; and achieving success in overcoming barriers to oral health access, education, and advocacy. At this year's Annual Gala & Benefit, Jack Dillenberg, DDS, MPH, will be honored for his dedicated service to the profession, dental education, public health, and OHA. Having served in several capacities in the Arizona Department of Health Services, including director for more than 4 years and assistant director in the Division of Family Health Services, Dr. Dillenberg is president of Dillenberg & Friends, Inc., which provides a full scope of health-services consulting. He has also been the recipient of the US Public Health Service Chief Dental Officer's Service Award and the Harvard School of Public Health Alumni Award of Merit.

This year, OHA adds two new awards—the Gala Champion Awards—to partners in the Smiles Across America and Wisdom Tooth Project programs. These partners are making a collective impact on their geographical location, are recognized as leaders in their area, and have made a positive impact on the future of oral health on a national or regional level.

The 28th Annual Gala & Benefit will be held on Wednesday, February 21, 2018, at the sparkling new Marriott Marquis Chicago, located near McCormick Place, where Midwinter is held. The theme of this year's Gala, Emergence & Empowerment, speaks to OHA's ability to help vulnerable communities emerge more empowered through education and access to oral and overall health. To learn more about the Gala, visit

For more than 60 years, OHA has represented the oral health needs of the American public through Smiles Across America®, which serves 501,000 children annually; the Wisdom Tooth Project®, which reaches tens of thousands of older adults monthly; and the Campaign for Oral Health Equity, which prioritizes oral health alongside other chronic diseases.

Smiles Across America (SAA) addresses the most common, yet preventable health epidemic facing our nation's children: tooth decay. SAA supports nationwide school-based or school-linked programs that provide preventive oral health services and education to children unable to access regular care. The new Early Childhood Caries Prevention Project aims to reduce the incidence of childhood caries by the age of five by providing parent/child engagement and education as well as bi-annual oral health screenings and fluoride varnish applications, establishing a dental home, and offering case management for those children identified as high risk.

The Wisdom Tooth Project (WTP) focuses on the dire situation facing older Americans when it comes to their oral health by providing resources and access to care through (a website dedicated to the oral health of older adults), advocacy, health education and communications (including Tooth Wisdom®: Get Smart About Your Mouth,an interactive health education curriculum for community-dwelling older adults), professional symposia, and demonstration projects.

The Campaign for Oral Health Equity seeks to raise awareness about the most pressing issues in oral health to improve quality of life for all. The Campaign underscores the importance of oral health, spreading the message that preventive oral health habits begin at any age and have a positive long-lasting impact on overall health and well-being.

For more information about Oral Health America, please visit

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