Each fall, Smile Kentucky! works with 30 elementary schools in Louisville and surrounding counties. Every classroom receives a hands-on dental education program and children in grades 3-6 receive a free dental screening. The program invites children without dental insurance or government medical assistance or those who have limited access to care for free treatment the following February at the School of Dentistry or private dental offices.

“Dental pain and infection is one of the leading causes for missed days at school and affects a child’s ability to concentrate. These students subsequently have lower grade point averages,” said John Sauk, dean, UofL School of Dentistry. “The University of Louisville School of Dentistry is dedicated to improving the oral health of Kentucky’s children — that’s why we suspend our normal clinical operations the first Friday in February – in order to focus our entire facility, faculty, staff and students — over 300 people — to focus on the Smile Kentucky! effort.”

Smile Kentucky! started in 2002 as a collaboration among Louisville Water, Louisville Dental Society, UofL School of Dentistry, Colgate, Sullivan Schein Dental, Northwest Area Health Education Center and Bullitt County Health Department. The program has grown to include more than 20 agencies on the steering committee and more than 150 groups providing time, materials and funding.

Since the program began, more than 127,000 students in 143 schools in 11 counties have received classroom dental education; 35,000 have received a free dental screening at school; and more than 3,000 have received free treatment.

The program has surpassed $1 million dollars in free dentistry.