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Dental Connections Receives $450,000 Grant to Improve Access to Dental Services With New Mobile Dental Clinic

Posted on December 18, 2023 in Foundation

Delta Dental of Iowa Dental Connections Bus

Dental Connections will purchase a new mobile dental clinic and expand the reach of its current Smile Squad mobile dental clinic program with the support of a $450,000 grant from Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation. The new mobile clinic will replace an aging unit helping to increase program efficiency and capacity by at least 15% over the next three years, reaching 1,000 new patients across Iowa annually.

Initially launched in 2003, the Dental Connections Smile Squad has provided mobile dental services to students across the Des Moines metro. As a community-based dentistry program, the Smile Squad eliminates transportation barriers by delivering dental care directly to those in need. While the priority will continue to be serving children and adults in the Des Moines metro, this new state-of-the-art mobile unit will allow the program to expand services with new partners to reach more individuals both locally and in rural areas across the state.

Grant funds will be put toward purchasing a new mobile unit and for operating support over three years as they work to increase the number of students receiving dental care each day. More than half of students who receive care from the Smile Squad have never been or haven’t been to a dentist in the previous 12 months. And, while no student is excluded from services regardless of insurance type, 1 in 5 of those examined don’t have dental insurance.

“School-based oral healthcare clinics are an effective way to ensure students have access to needed treatments and routine preventative care by bringing the services to where the students are, eliminating many barriers to care,” said Suzanne Heckenlaible, executive director of Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation. “As a long-time partner and supporter, we’re proud to invest in Dental Connections’ Smile Squad program and its goals to improve access to dental care and educate students on the importance of good oral hygiene.”

In addition to metro-area schools, the Smile Squad mobile dental clinic provides onsite care for homeless youth shelters, women’s shelters, veterans’ events, and more.

“Every year, new organizations and schools contact us to request visits from the Smile Squad,” said Carly Ross, executive director of Dental Connections. “We are extremely grateful to Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation for their financial and operational support as we work to expand service areas across the state. Mobile dentistry is one way we are working to fulfill our mission of providing more equitable access to oral healthcare in Iowa.”

Dental Connections continues to seek partnerships and funding opportunities to support future programming needs. For more information about supporting their efforts contact Kathy Salisbury, Director of Marketing and Development, at [email protected].