OHDS - I-Smile

I-Smile: From little smiles to lifelong smiles, improving the health of Iowans.

I-Smile is a statewide program that connects children and families with dental, medical, and community resources to ensure a lifetime of health and wellness.

I-Smile Background

In 2005, the Iowa legislature mandated that all Medicaid-enrolled children age 12 and younger have a designated dental home. Legislators recognized the importance of early and routine dental care for Iowa’s most vulnerable children and sought assurance that those children be provided with dental screenings and preventive, diagnostic, treatment, and emergency services as identified in the oral health standards under the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) program. In response to this mandate, the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) worked with the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and other state partners to develop the I-Smile dental home concept.

Using funding via an agreement with DHS, IDPH administers I-Smile through contracts with local public health organizations that are part of the statewide Title V child health (CH) program (which assures health services for low-income children, adolescents, and pregnant women). Each CH Contractor has an I-Smile Coordinator working within their communities to help families access dental services, prevent dental disease, and better understand the importance of good oral health.

The I-Smile Dental Home Network

In Iowa, a dental home is a network of individualized care, based on risk for dental disease. A dental home includes oral health education; dental screenings; and preventive, diagnostic, treatment, and emergency services. Different health professionals (dentists, dental hygienists, physicians, nurses) and locations (dental offices and clinics, medical offices, public health clinics, WIC clinics, Head Start centers, schools) may be part of the dental home (See figure below). I-Smile Coordinators are the point of contact within the dental network, assessing community needs, coordinating dental care, and addressing barriers that prevent access to dental services.

I-Smile Coordinators are responsible for:

  • Developing relationships with dental offices to encourage acceptance of referrals of underserved families needing dental care,
  • Developing partnerships within their community to increase awareness and promote oral health,
  • Linking with local boards of health to address oral health issues affecting county residents,
  • Training medical providers on how to apply fluoride varnish and screen the mouth for disease,
  • Coordinating dental care for families, including assisting families with finding a dental provider, scheduling dental appointments, finding transportation, and payment for dental care,
  • Establishing access to oral screening, fluoride, and sealant applications in public health settings (schools, WIC clinics, Head Start) to prevent disease and lower health care costs, and
  • Educating community members about the importance of community water fluoridation to prevent tooth decay.

Diagram of everyone that is involved with creating a dental home.

For more information on the I-Smile program visit ismile.iowa.idph.gov.

For a list of reports visit the Reports & Data tab.