Save a Smile


Founded in 2003, Save a Smile is an innovative, nationally recognized, collaborative program. We provide thorough preventive and restorative dental care for children from low-income families with the help of volunteer dentists. As a program that’s led by Cook Children’s, Save a Smile is guided by the same Promise: to improve the health status of every child in our region through the prevention and treatment of illness, disease and injury.

The school-based grassroots approach of the program includes a social service model and is the key component to connecting children to the care they need.

Children eligible for the program are at high risk for dental disease and are from elementary schools pre-selected by Save a Smile and participating school districts.

Oral care family brochureDental care resources

Recursos dentalesRecursos dentales

Cook Children's CEO, Rick Merrill, talks about the importance of dental health to a child's growth and development and how Save a Smile, led by Cook Children’s, is making a difference for kids in our region.

The problem

Untreated dental disease can adversely affect learning, communication, nutrition and other activities necessary for normal growth and development. Also, the Community-wide Children’s Health Assessment & Planning Survey (CCHAPS) conducted in 2009 identified oral health as one of the issues affecting the children in the Cook Children’s primary six-county service area. The most recent study, released in 2015, revealed that in Tarrant County:

Program overview

Children receive dental screenings (limited oral evaluations) once a year by licensed volunteer dentists to identify those with current or potential dental problems. Depending on the severity of the problem, age of the child, translation requirements and financial/insurance status, a referral is made to the appropriate volunteer dental provider.

Dental care is given in the dentists’ private offices, free of charge to the families. Children with CHIP or Medicaid are connected with a Medicaid/CHIP provider selected through their coverage.

Social services

A licensed master social worker (LMSW) manages community health workers (CHW) who work in the schools with students and their families. Social service needs are typically determined after the preliminary dental screening, when the CHWs are following up with the families to pursue a course of treatment. The most frequent services provided are:

Save a Smile, led by Cook Children’s, provides more than free dental care for children whose families can’t afford it. Watch Jared’s heart-wrenching journey through our program.

School nurses and staff

See how North Texas dental care providers are generously saving smiles one child at a time through Save a Smile, led by Cook Children's.


For more information contact Tonya K. Fuqua, D.D.S., Director, Community Health, at 682-885-6731 or email