Children's Dental Health Month Focuses on Healthy Smiles

“A smile is something we can give to another person that doesn’t cost anything, but could mean everything to them,” says Shannon McManus, a public health dental hygienist who has been with EveryStep for eight years. “Having strong and healthy teeth allows us to give away smiles every chance we get!”

February is National Children's Dental Health Month — a time to recognize the importance of dental health in the total development of a child. Children with untreated tooth decay are absent from school, are in pain and unable to eat, have low self-esteem and are not able to grow and thrive, or concentrate on learning. 

But attaining and maintaining oral health isn’t as simple as giving someone a toothbrush. “Making sure that parents and guardians understand the worth of a healthy smile can be a challenge,” says Shannon.

There are many reasons that parents and guardians neglect to take their children to the dentist. They often don’t have a dental provider, the expense of visiting a dentist is too much, or they just don’t understand the need for a healthy mouth. That's where the I-Smile™ program comes in. EveryStep has facilitated the I-Smile™ program in Dallas, Polk, Clinton, and Jackson counties since its inception in 2006. Through partners like EveryStep, I-Smile™ helps parents get their children to a dentist, provides a dental home and shares information with the family about the importance of oral health in overall learning and health.

EveryStep is proud to be a partner in the I-Smile™ Dental Home Initiative, which links children and families to dental care. In 2021, EveryStep provided more than 1,320 dental screenings to children and pregnant women, along with oral health education sessions and referrals to providers for dental concerns and emergencies. This number is down from previous years due to COVID-19, which means the I-Smile™ program is needed now more than ever.  

The I-Smile™ program works with low-income children to ensure access to oral screenings and fluoride varnish in public health sites (WIC clinics, Head Start and schools) to prevent disease and lower health care costs by providing a dental referral for the child so that they and their family have a dental provider.

The Iowa Department of Public Health’s I-Smile™ program, which began in 2006, reaches all 99 counties, providing pregnant women and children under the age of 21 with dental screenings and fluoride treatments, referring dental providers, and assisting in transportation and payment needs.

To learn more about I-Smile™ or to find services, simply contact Shannon at or call 515-631-8582.