Miles of Smiles started bringing comprehensive dental care to the uninsured and underinsured children of Clay and Platte Counties in 2002. By the end of 2003, we had treated 1,227 patients. This year, Miles of Smiles will provide free dental care to more than 2,500 children.
Miles of Smiles has more than 11,000 active patients in the practice, and we know there are more than 17,500 children in the Northland who qualify for our services.
We partner with every Northland school district to provide FREE, comprehensive dental care in the schools so services are accessible and parents have no need to miss work.
A family who recently moved here from Micronesia have three children. They currently live with a relative. Tara, age 6, was diagnosed with six cavities. Her older brother Namiko, age 8, has one permanent tooth that needs to be extracted and each of his other permanent teeth are decayed. He also has three baby teeth that are severely decayed. Their older brother, Santo, age 9, is paralyzed from the waist down due to an injury when he was 5. Half of his teeth are severely decayed and need to be extracted or restored.
Not all of our patients are this desperate, but most low-income families who struggle to meet the basic needs of their children often let dental care fall off the priority list. Oral health care supplies are expensive, dental care is expensive, and it is difficult to find providers who accept Medicaid. Many dental offices have appointment wait times of 3 to 6 months. Miles of Smiles eliminates all of these barriers by bringing the dental care to the school setting. This is an ideal arrangement since parents don’t have to worry about transportation, finances, or time off work, and the children miss very little time out of the classroom.
Children who receive regular dental care demonstrate fewer hours of missed school and improved academic performance.
Miles of Smiles employs two full time dental teams, each team consists of one licensed dentist and two dental assistants. Each dental team sets up a temporary dental office inside a school for two or three weeks. During those weeks, the dentist and assistants show up at the school every day and provide a comprehensive exam, cleaning, X-rays and all necessary restorative treatment to each child who has been enrolled in the program. Patients are offered an appointment at our office for check-ups or to finish treatment in the interim months until the dental team is at their school again.
Miles of Smiles is truly the dental home for our patients, and without our services, most of our patients would never receive regular, comprehensive dental care. Research shows that access to regular dental care can alleviate health problems in adulthood, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
The mouth is the window to the rest of the body, and therefore we must keep that window clean and free of disease to help keep the rest of the body free from disease.
This blog post is part of A Healthy 10.
A Healthy 10