Changing A Child's World One Smile At A Time: EveryStep's I-Smile Program

When she learned a young student was experiencing dental pain every moment of the school day, Jensen Elementary School nurse Allison Fisher reached out to her colleagues for help.

That's when the Urbandale School District nurse first heard of the I-Smile™ program.

Getting uninsured and underinsured children the dental care they need to thrive is the goal of I-Smile™, an Iowa Department of Public Health program offered by EveryStep.

The I-Smile™ program, which began in 2006, reaches all 99 counties in Iowa, providing pregnant women and children under the age of 12 with dental screenings and fluoride treatments, referral to dental providers, and assisting with transportation and payment needs.

In 2019, EveryStep provided children and pregnant women with 1,268 dental screenings, fluoride varnish applications, oral health education and referrals to dental providers.

After learning more about the program, Allison contacted Sue Winker, an I-Smile™ coordinator with EveryStep, in January with her concerns about the student.

"She followed up right away," Allison recalls. "She came out the next morning to do a screening and kind of check things over to see what the next steps might be."

Sue was able to refer the student for an initial exam and screening. She was also able to secure an interpreter through EveryStep for the family during that appointment.

"This is really changing this child's world," she said. "She experiences dental pain every moment of every day, and the family doesn't have the resources to seek dental care on their own. This opportunity to receive dental care will change her whole life."

After her first experience with the program, Allison said she won't hesitate to contact Sue and spread the message of EveryStep and I-Smile™ to her colleagues and other school nurses in the metro.

"I've already talked with the other nurses in my district about what an awesome experience I had in case they had kids in a similar situation so we could also refer them," she said.

Allison said it's relieving to know that there are resources such as I-Smile™, that provide services free of charge, available to families in the metro.

"It can be a little insurmountable to think of all the needs in our school and not know where to turn for every single one," she said. "I'm grateful to have the I-Smile™ team on my list of services."

EveryStep collaborates with many other organizations, agencies, healthcare providers and non-profits to serve our communities' most vulnerable populations. Learn more by visiting EveryStep online. 

Inset photo: Allison Fisher, Jensen Elementary School nurse.