36_Small Smiles and Kool Smiles

Keeping kids grinning

More than 20% of U.S. kids under the age of 19—that's 17 million—never see a dentist. Most qualify for free or very low-cost dental care. They just can't find a dentist who accepts Medicaid or state insurance. Two fast-growing companies aim to address the problem by specializing in dentistry only for kids who qualify for government insurance. FORBA, whose name stands for "for better access," has 50 Small Smiles dental clinics in 16 states, aims to open a new one every month in 2007, and to serve 2 million kids a year by 2012. Kool Smiles has 31 clinics in 6 states and an equally quick growth rate. The clinics serve a huge need, which becomes apparent the moment they open their doors. The first Kool Smiles, in Decatur, Georgia, saw 10,000 patients its first year—more than 40 a day. A Small Smiles clinic in Roanoke, Virginia, had appointments for 2,100 children before it even opened last summer.

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