Minnesota Dentists Give Free Care through 'Give Kids a Smile' Program

January 24, 2017
Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN

Dental professionals around the state participate in the program each year to provide care to children in need.

Dentists in Minnesota are taking steps to address healthcare disparities among at-risk children by offering free dental services on Feb. 3 and 4. The event is part of the Give Kids a Smile program. Dental professionals around the state participate in the program each year to provide care to children in need.

Give Kids a Smile is sponsored in part by the Minnesota Dental Association (MDA). The Association has more than 2,000 dental professionals registered to volunteer at more than 125 dental clinics across the state. As part of this year’s outreach effort, dentists will be providing free exams, fillings, and sealants to children 18 years of age or younger.

The Give Kids a Smile program has worked over the past 15 years to provide children with dental services they desperately need. To date, dentists in Minnesota have provided free care to more than 65,000 children. The services these dentists have donated are valued at more than $17 million.

Dentists in the state who are interested in donating time and professional services can register with the MDA and receive a participation kit. The kit compiles 15 years of program knowledge into a free resource dentists can reference at any time. Dentists can also chat with colleagues who have already participated in the program for advice and recommendations on how to coordinate care.

There are several ways for interested dentists to take part in the program:

· Dentists can volunteer their clinics to host the free event, with the number of children served and types of services provided depending on the size of the space and staff availability.

· Dentists may also volunteer individually or as a team to provide treatment at any of the registered event locations outside of their own practices. If needed, the MDA is available to help match dental professionals with clinics.

· Finally, dentists can register to participate as a Smile Factory provider. As this type of clinician, dentists and dental specialists complete treatment for some of the most extensive cases identified at other Give Kids a Smile clinics. Participation in this program involves the use of dentist-to-dentist referrals, with providers completing care at a time and place that is mutually convenient to them and the child.

More than half of Minnesota children enrolled in Medicaid have not received any dental services within the past year. The situation is made worse because the state has the lowest national ranking for reimbursement of government dental program fees. Dr. Kevin Dens, president of the MDA said, “Minnesota dentists know every child deserves a winning smile. There is so much unmet need for dental treatment in Minnesota."

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