Appalachian Highlands Community Dental Center Granted $75,000 to Expand Access to Oral Health Care Throughout Southwest Virginia

Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation awards $775,000 in grants to safety-net organizations improving oral health in the commonwealth

August 17, 2023

Media contact: Jeremy Butterfield,

ABINGDON, Va. — The Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation announced $775,000 in grants awarded to 12 safety-net providers focused on meeting critical oral health needs in Virginia, including a $75,000 grant to Appalachian Highlands Community Dental Center (AHCDC).  

“We are committed to expanding access to oral health programs throughout the state, and this year, more than ever before, our safety-net clinic partners tell us they are facing workforce and other challenges that are limiting access for the region’s most vulnerable patients,” said Frank Lucia, president and chief executive officer of Delta Dental of Virginia. “With these grants and other workforce initiatives throughout the state, we are implementing long-term strategies to help grow and diversify Virginia’s dental workforce.”

AHCDC opened in 2020 to serve the Mount Rogers, Lenowisco and Cumberland Plateau health districts. During AHCDC’s relatively brief time in operation, the clinic has become the single largest provider of adult Medicaid in the region. The dental clinic is challenged to meet the demands of patients who rely on its services for oral health care. AHCDC’s 2023 grant of $75,000 supports an overall expansion project to better serve this vulnerable population by expanding its current configuration of dental examination rooms, as well as its imaging laboratory.

“We believe that the region suffers from an enormous pent-up need for affordable oral health care,” said Elaine Smith, executive director of Appalachian Highlands Community Dental Center. “Our region suffers from a shortage of dentists and affordable dental care. The average number of dentists in the United States is 61 per 100,000. In Southwest Virginia, however, the ratio of dentists per person is less than half the national average, or 29 per 100,000.”

In total, the Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation funded 12 grantees through its 2023 grant cycle. Various initiatives funded include programs to increase patient access to dental care, initiatives to expand the safety-net clinic workforce and direct-to-home comprehensive oral health education programs.

Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation 2023 grantees include:
“It’s clear that these organizations are determined to meet the oral health needs of their communities today and far into the future,” said Polly Raible, executive director of the Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation. “The programs funded ensure that we’re responding to current challenges, while also investing in the long-term expansion of dental access for all Virginians.”

The Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation is in its eleventh year of creating healthy smiles in the commonwealth. Since its inception in 2012, the Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation has developed, implemented and supported many unique community collaborations with health and wellness partners throughout the state to promote oral health initiatives. For more information about the grant program and other Foundation initiatives, please visit

About Delta Dental of Virginia

Established in 1964, Delta Dental of Virginia is the largest dental benefits provider in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Delta Dental of Virginia provides high-quality, cost-effective dental plans to more than two million members. Through its foundation, Delta Dental of Virginia has donated millions of dollars to improve the oral health of Virginians.

Delta Dental of Virginia is a member of the national Delta Dental Plans Association (DDPA). Since 1954, the DDPA has worked to improve oral health nationally. Delta Dental member companies serve more than 83 million people in more than 152,000 groups across the nation.

About Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation

Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation is committed to improving the oral health of all Virginians. Created in 2012 by Delta Dental of Virginia, the Foundation supports education, program development and community partnership initiatives that help create healthy smiles in Virginia through improved access to oral health care, education and research.