Project Ready Smile

Project Ready Smile focused on improving the oral health of young children before entering kindergarten.


Project Ready Smile was the Foundation’s first intiative, a joint investment with the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City (HCF) designed to improve the oral health of children ages birth to six. Project Ready Smile established partnerships with the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry, local dentists, and Head Start and early childhood centers serving low-income and medically underserved children.

Through the initiative, Project Ready Smile dental hygienists worked in 20 Head Start and early childhood centers to provide oral screenings of children from infants through age 6 , apply fluoride varnish on teeth as appropriate, and connect children in need of treatment to dental care. A group of dentists in the foundations’ six-county service area agreed to provide treatment with reimbursement at state Medicaid rates. Along with improving the oral health of young children, the project aimed to:

  1. Increase the number of dentists willing to treat low-income children.
  2. Encourage families to establish a “dental home.”
  3. Educate children, families and early childhood caregivers about oral health habits that should begin early in a child’s life.

Over three years, Project Ready Smile served 2,070 children and performed 3,776 oral screenings. While the primary focus was on identification and early treatment of tooth decay, the initiative also emphasized oral health education for parents. Surveys conducted as part of the evaluation found parent knowledge about oral health increased over time as a result of the educational efforts.

Two nonprofit organizations, a multi-site federally qualified health center in Kansas City, Mo., and a Head Start coordinating agency in Kansas, assumed responsibility for the project at the end of 2010. The REACH Foundation awarded grants to those organizations to support continuation of the project.

For more information, contact Dawn Downes, Project Director, dawn@reachhealth.org.