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Child At Dentist

Give Kids a Smile: Practices offer free appointments for uninsured children

Jan. 26, 2022
February focuses on the dental health of children. The number of children who don't have access to regular dental care continues to rise. Give Kids a Smile is designed to help.

Access to affordable dental care for children continues to be an undermet need. Low-income children are far less likely to have routine dental checkups, and they suffer disproportionate rates of tooth decay. Children aged 5 to 19 from low-income families are twice as likely (25%) to have cavities, compared with children from higher-income households (11%).1

That’s why many dental offices across the US plan to participate in the national Give Kids a Smile (GKAS) program, an event of the American Dental Association that offers care to uninsured children and is a cornerstone of the ADA’s National Children’s Dental Health Month each February. GKAS is aimed at expanding needed dental services to underserved children and shining a spotlight on the negative consequences of untreated dental disease.

An example is Adventure Dental and Vision, whose offices in Kansas City and Topeka will offer free dental care to children in need who do not have health insurance. Treatments will include dental exams, cleanings, fluoride treatments, fillings, x-rays, sealants and extractions through the Give Kids a Smile program.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, 10% of dentists have stopped accepting Medicaid and the number of children on Medicaid has increased by 20%,” said Janelle Shumaker, director of community outreach at Adventure Dental and Vision. “We know that there is more need than ever, but what is more difficult to track is the number of children who are falling into the gap of being completely uninsured. Our mission at Adventure is to reach as many families as possible to get kids out of pain and on a regular dental hygiene program. By participating in Give Kids a Smile, we can leverage this campaign to reach the families who need us most.”

Tooth decay continues to be among the most common chronic diseases to impact children in the US, even though it is preventable and oral health is integral to overall health. Untreated dental disease is painful and affects a child’s physical, emotional, and social development. Kids with untreated dental decay can’t eat or sleep properly, which affects their ability to concentrate in school.

Visit ada.org/aboutgivekidsasmile to learn more about the program, and ada.org/community-initiatives if you want to sign up to participate.


  1. Dye BA, Xianfen L, Beltrán-Aguilar ED. Selected Oral Health Indicators in the United States 2005–2008. NCHS Data Brief, no. 96. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2012.