SMILES - Spanning Miles in Linking Everyone to Services
As many as half of all Coloradans don’t receive routine, preventive oral health care – most of whom live in low-income, rural communities and are unable to conveniently access the current system of dental care in a traditional dental office. Our vision is to expand access to oral health care to improve the overall health outcomes for all Coloradans.
In 2015, Caring for Colorado and the Colorado Health Foundation launched the SMILES Dental Project – a five-year, $4.7 million initiative to bring oral health care to low-income, isolated Coloradans with a particular focus on addressing the dental health needs of pregnant women, children, seniors and people with disabilities. Our mission is to expand access to oral health care for Colorado’s most vulnerable populations.
The goals of the project are to greatly expand access to care for vulnerable populations and to test a new model of delivering dental care in community settings including schools, Head Start centers, assisted living centers and nursing homes. Grantee organizations for this project are:
- Dental Aid, Inc. – Providing services to high need adults in Boulder County at the community mental health center, homeless shelter and community resource center.
- Summit Community Care Clinic – Providing dental care to students, grades K-12 in Lake and Park counties. In future years, services will be expanded into Summit, Chaffee and Grand counties.
- Salud Family Health Center – Partnering with schools in Morgan County to deliver dental services to elementary school children in Ft. Morgan. The program will expand into the six county region of northeast Colorado over time.
- Tri-County Health Network – Providing services for school children at Telluride K-12 and Naturita Elementary. Future growth will include other schools in the Tri-County region that includes San Miguel, Dolores, Ouray and Montrose counties.
- Mountain Family Health Center – Providing school-based services for all children, pre-school through grade 12 in Parachute and Avon.
The concept of bringing care out of dental clinics directly to where people live, work, and go to school is not a new model. Applying these concepts to modern dentistry in wide-scale practice is where the learning curve exists. With advancements in technology, now there are many ways to share the important tools of oral health – like x-rays and visual assessments – with experts that may be hundreds of miles away.
The University of Pacific has had great success addressing the needs of Californians with barriers to traditional models of care with their Virtual Dental Home demonstration project. To read more about the model that influenced Colorado’s SMILES Dental Project, visit the University of Pacific website.
To facilitate the implementation of the SMILES Dental Project in Colorado, the Colorado legislature passed HB 15-309 which expanded the scope of care in the Registered Dental Hygiene Practice Act. Learn more about Colorado’s first class of Registered Dental Hygienists trained in this expanded scope.
Colorado’s First Class of Registered Dental Hygienists trained in an expanded scope of care!
View this photo diary of the SMILES Dental Project, from planning through the early stages of implementation.
To learn more, visit the SMILES Dental Project blog.