It has been a busy month for Scottsdale business leader Michael Jones, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Arizona and president of the Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation. In the past two weeks, he and his team announced nearly $800,000 in grants to nonprofits statewide, as well as a partnership with University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix to create the first-ever Oral Health In Medicine Initiative in the history of Arizona.

We had the chance to sit down with Michael to learn more about these initiatives, as well as some other things cooking with Delta Dental and beyond.

First, let’s hear about the grants!

Yes, it’s been such a privilege to help so many in need. Earlier this month, the Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation awarded $793,149 in grants to 39 nonprofit organizations that work with underserved populations throughout our state. These funds will support projects and services promoting good oral health practices and increasing access to dental care among underserved children, pregnant women, seniors and adults, as well as nutritional access programs such as food banks, after-school and weekend food programs for children, and senior delivery programs. To advance our mission to create a path to better health and wellness, Delta Dental of Arizona is focused on promoting whole-body health. Supporting this year’s group of recipients is another way to achieve this objective for Arizonans who need a helping hand. 

Who are some of the recipients? 

We presented community grants ranging from $5,000 to $30,000, as well as dental supplies as needed, to 36 Arizona nonprofits, including 11 first-time recipients. Among this amazing group are Foundation for Senior Living, Neighborhood Outreach Access to Health (NOAH), Smiles For Veterans, Southwest Human Development, UMOM New Day Centers, Valleywise Health Foundation, and Youth On Their Own.

Additionally, we have the Delta Dental IMPACT Grant program, which awards organizations with two-year grants totaling $100,000 each, with $50,000 funded each year. Advance Community’s Arizona Oral Health Education Program, one of three IMPACT recipients, educates children in Title 1 schools and various daycare centers across the Valley about the importance of proper daily hygiene practices, proper brushing/flossing techniques, and the need for routine dental visits, both in English and Spanish. 

Can you talk more about the Oral Health In Medicine Initiative?

Certainly. The Oral Health In Medicine Initiative (OHMI) was created to increase oral health education for medical students at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix and is expected to launch in the 2024-2025 academic year, commencing this July. The OHMI program will provide new physicians with a greater understanding of the mouth’s role as a window to underlying health issues and the vocabulary to communicate effectively with their dental colleagues.

This program partners with the Harvard University School of Medicine’s Center for Integration of Primary Care and Oral Health on a comprehensive curriculum that will be integrated across all four years of medical students’ training. It will be two-fold offering, with both classroom instruction and hands-on training during student clerkships, providing real-world experience with patients in an authentic clinical dental setting. We estimate that upon completion of the program, graduates will be able to make a positive impact on up to 180,000 patients per class, per year.  I also believe that integrating these two care components will ultimately reduce healthcare costs over the long run.

February is Children’s Dental Health Month. Anything planned to celebrate?

Absolutely. For the 16th consecutive year, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix and Delta Dental of Arizona are partnering to bring oral health programming to the museum all month long. Each day through Feb. 29, visitors can take part in interactive activities, shows and educational information related to the mouth, teeth, and oral health. Expect activities ranging from art projects to teaching proper brushing and flossing techniques, crafts to create tooth-saver necklaces, educational opportunities in the KIDchen and The Children’s Garden to learn about the healthy foods you can eat that help your teeth stay healthy, and even programs about the teeth of various animals. 

Phew, you are busy! Anything else of note?

Yes, we are working hard on several new initiatives! One that I can announce today is our Special Health Care Needs benefit. For the estimated 7 million adults and children living within the United States with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD), visiting the dentist for oral health care can be overwhelming or even inaccessible. I’m proud to say that, effective April 1, 2024, most Delta Dental of Arizona’s dental plans will now give children and adults with special health care needs access to increased benefits. These benefits will include additional dental visits to ensure patients understand what to expect prior to treatment; up to four dental cleanings in a benefit year; treatment delivery modifications necessary for dental staff to care for patients with sensory sensitivities, behavioral challenges, or other barriers to treatment; and the use of anesthesia when necessary to provide dental care. These benefits will be included with most existing individual and group dental plans, and any eligible enrolled employee or their enrolled family members diagnosed with a special health care need may be eligible for additional services.

What about when you aren’t working? 

Within the community, I’m very proud to be an elected member of Greater Phoenix Leadership, working to improve Arizona’s economic vitality and quality of life. When not working, I enjoy traveling with my wife and visiting our adult children. Family is extremely important part of my life, and we enjoy sharing new experiences together.  

Michael Jones