Since 2004, Smile Partners’ dental hygiene teams have been providing oral screenings, fluoride varnish applications, cleanings, sealants, referrals and oral hygiene instruction to disadvantaged children in elementary and preschools throughout the Puget Sound area.
In 2015 alone, the organization served nearly 10,000 young patients in more than 100 schools where at least half the students receive free and reduced school lunches. Often the percentage is much higher, with a range of 60 – 95 percent and an average of 80 percent. The free or reduced school lunch is a federal designation and a key indicator of extreme low-income status of the students at a school. During the 2015 – 16 school year, Smile Partners is at work in Auburn, Federal Way, Highline, Tukwila, Seattle, Bremerton, Central Kitsap, North Kitsap, Belfair, Everett, Mukilteo, Arlington, Marysville and Edmonds.
Smile Partners also serves seniors in Kitsap County through its Smiles for Life program at the Waterfront Park Community Center in Winslow, Bainbridge Island.
Smile Partners is a 501 C 3 nonprofit that offers preventive oral health services to low-income children and seniors in the Puget Sound area.
Why They Serve: Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, many times more common than hay fever. By third grade, nearly six out of ten children suffer from it. Children from low-income homes can have three times the number of cavities as their peers. Yet, the majority of children in disadvantaged households in Washington state do not receive dental care. Most children from low-income families do not have dental insurance and those who have Medicaid coverage find it hard to find providers that accept it. In surveys, children and their families regularly chose oral health care as the number one priority for non-academic services delivered in their schools. These children in King, Kitsap, Snohomish and Mason counties, as well as the children from newly arrived refugee families, are their clients. They also count seniors in need as their clients. Despite the affluence of Bainbridge Island, the community where they are based, many elderly residents can’t afford the most basic preventive oral health services without assistance. Several health and wellness surveys on the island have shown that oral health care is a number one priority here too. Through their Smiles for Life Program, they also serve low-income seniors from Poulsbo, Suquamish and elsewhere in Kitsap County.