History Of The Program
The history of the Grotto goes back to 1899 when a group of Master Masons met in Hamilton, New York for fun and informal meetings. Confining their membership to Master Masons, this group became so popular that additional groups began forming in other locations. This once-small committee expanded to become the Supreme Council, Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm, with sub-chapters called Grottoes across North America.
In 1949, the Supreme Council voted to make children with cerebral palsy the beneficiary of the Council’s philanthropic and humanitarian efforts, and created the Humanitarian Foundation to further this goal. Through their work with handicapped children, Council members became aware of the need for specialized dental care for these children.
This Grotto responded by forming the Dentistry for Children with Special Needs program to provide these services through the Grottoes of North America Humanitarian Foundation. The Foundation works in conjunction with the Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago and the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas to provide dental care and transportation free of charge to the patient’s families. In 1973, the program expanded to provide local services for patients whose need is not as severe, who do not need surgery, and who are physically able to assist in their own care. The Dentistry for Children with Special Needs program has arrangements with a national network of dentists who are qualified to provide this treatment.
Why Is It Needed?
Many children with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, mental retardation or neuromuscular conditions are physically unable to hold their mouths open for extended lengths of time. They may not be able to relax their tongues sufficiently to allow for normal dental exams or procedures, or may become physically uncomfortable or anxious in the dentist’s chair. These children typically require sedation in order to receive routine cleanings and dental procedures.
Even when a family has dental insurance, the cost of sedation dentistry usually is not covered, leaving them with hundreds or even thousands of dollars in co-pays for routine procedures. For many families, this is simply unaffordable. Some children also require dental care prior to surgery to correct cleft lips or palates, and this care may not be covered by insurance. For families without dental insurance, the Grotto will cover the entire cost of dental care. The program will also assist families in location a dentist qualified to provide these services.
How Parents Can Receive Help
The Dentistry For Children With Special Needs program is available to children under the age of eighteen who do not receive Medicaid and who have cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy (or a related neuromuscular disorder), mental retardation or who have received an organ transplant. The only requirement for receiving assistance is that the patient is sponsored by a local Grotto. Patients without a local Grotto may request assistance through the National Foundation office. The local representative, also referred to as the Doctor of Smiles, will provide information on the program and help the family locate a provider. The representative also assists in completing paperwork and serves as a liaison with the dentist.
Since its inception in 1970, the Dentistry for Children with Special Needs Program has provided nearly $7,000,000 in dental services to thousands of children through the United States and Canada. The Foundation accepts applications continually, and holds all information in the strictest confidence.