How to get free dental care for your kids at school

With back-to-school season here, now is the time when qualifying families in almost half of the United States can sign their children up for free dental care at their local school.

RELATED: Free or reduced school meals: Income eligibility guidelines for 2018-2019

The Smiles Programs: More options for low-cost or free dental care for children

Smile Programs is the nation's largest in-school dental program, offering free preventive and restorative care to some 500,000 underserved children across the country each year.

If your child is insured with Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), your can get free treatment for him or her directly at their school through this program. Private insurance is also accepted, though a charge will apply.

Local affiliates of the Smiles Program visit area schools twice a year in participating states and set up an in-school “dental office for the day.” Services are offered at no cost to parents or the schools. If a family doesn’t have the ability to pay, a grant program is offered so that no child gets turned away because of money.

Here are five things to know about the Smiles Programs…

Where is the program available?

The service is offered in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Washington, D.C.

What services are offered?

The Smiles Programs offer a wide range of preventive care, including complete dental exam, cleaning, X-rays, fluoride treatments, sealants and oral health instruction.

In addition, fillings, simple extractions, pulpotomy (treatment of the nerves inside of baby teeth) and even crowns are available.

Are the dentists licensed?

Yes. The program partners with local licensed dentists in your state, along with licensed dental hygienists and/or professional dental assistants, to see children in a school setting.

Each child seen receives a dental “report card” to take home and a free toothbrush.

What about continuity of care? 

If your family's financial situation changes and you're no longer eligible for Medicaid or CHIP, you can request that your child's dental records be sent to your new dental provider using this online form.

How do I sign my child up?

If you live in one of the participating states, a permission form will be sent home with your student, likely at the beginning of the school year.

Just fill it out and return in to the school. Your school with then coordinate with your local affiliate of the Smiles Programs to set up a day for the dentist to visit your child’s school.

It’s that easy!

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