Happier, Healthier Smiles for Underprivileged Children

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Wednesday, January 10, 2024


Dental Connections is a private, nonprofit community health center that promotes equitable access to quality oral health care for children and adults.  The majority of their patients have state insurance (Medicaid) and are unable to obtain dental care through private practice dentists.  Almost 20% of patients have no insurance and therefore, quality dental care can be out of their reach.  Dental Connections treats almost 14,000 patients per year through its main clinic, its satellite, school-based clinic, and its mobile dental units.


The Smile Squad provides oral health care through their mobile dental clinic program, which is an on-site dental care to eight school districts throughout the Greater Des Moines area.  For students who do not have dental insurance, care is donated. 


"Many of our students have horrible dental problems, which affects their schooling.  They come to my office complaining of teeth hurting.  Yes, teeth: it is never just one tooth.  I look in their mouths and see parts of teeth missing or blackened teeth from decay.  When they are in so much pain they are unable to focus on school work and miss days of school because their teeth hurt.  Some students have never been to a dentist. The Smile Squad helps our students feel better and look better." - Crestview School Nurse, Jen     


Dental Connections started their mobile dental clinic program in the mid-2000’s with two mobile dental units (MDU).  These units are now 15 and 20 years old and are undependable.  In January 2023 a campaign was begun to replace one of the aging vehicles with a new, state-of-the-art unit.  With a new MDU thanks to help from a Variety Grant, Dental Connections is now able to run both units simultaneously and allow them to expand their services to children beyond the greater Des Moines area. 


"Dental Connections’ mobile clinic was at my school this fall.  They were able to see 16 students and complete treatment on 6 students.  One student treated on the mobile clinic this fall said that he was now able to chew on both sides of his mouth because his cavities were filled.  Another student’s face lit up when we talked about the mobile unit.  His teeth and mouth are all better now, he said." - Capitol View Elementary School Nurse, Stephanie                                                 


This new mobile dental unit will allow Dental Connections to greatly expand their oral health program for underprivileged children and ensure more kids have happier, healthier smiles!


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