This past year, the Benco Family Foundation has found a focus beyond product donations. Recognizing the severe underrepresentation of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) in dentistry, the Benco Family Foundation teamed up with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and the Dental Trade Alliance Foundation to create Change for Good.

What is the Change for Good created by the UNCF, DTA and Benco Dental?

Change for Good is an initiative to raise scholarship dollars for the Dr. Robert Tanner Freeman Endowment, the first dental school scholarship offered through the UNCF. The endowment is named in tribute to Dr. Robert Tanner Freeman, the first professionally-trained Black dentist in the U.S.

Dr. Robert Tanner Freeman, the first professionally-trained Black dentist in the U.S.

In 1869, just four years after the Civil War ended, Freeman, the son of enslaved parents, entered Harvard Dental School and in doing so, opened a door of opportunity for future generations of dentists. Freeman apprenticed with Dr. Henry Bliss Noble, a local dentist who encouraged and helped Freeman gain entrance to Harvard. After graduating, Dr. Freeman returned home to practice and mentor other Black youth interested in dentistry.

Why does representation matter in dentistry?

According to the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute, in 2016 Black and Hispanic dentists and those who identify as another race or ethnicity represented just a combined 10.6 percent of professionals in the industry.

Those numbers illustrate a lack of BIPOC representation in dentistry that could easily discourage pre-dental or dental students in the pursuit of their chosen profession.

Lack of diversity in local communities can create barriers on oral health care, as illustrated by the studies below:

  • An Oakland, California study in 1999 found that satisfaction in health care increases when the patient is being treated by a doctor of the same race.
  • Research shared by The Pew Charitable Trusts in 2016 indicates that children of color see a dentist less often and receive fewer preventative services than their white peers do.

The Change for Good Dr. Robert Tanner Freeman scholarship supports the idea that diversity among role models and leaders in dentistry will help combat the unbalanced distribution of dentists in the United States.

How can your change make a Change for Good in dentistry?

Benco Dental customers can donate in support of the Change for Good Dr. Robert Tanner Freeman Endowment by rounding up their order to the next dollar. The Benco Family Foundation will match each gift and donate the full sum to the Endowment.

Learn more about the Change for Good scholarship program here.