Miles for Smiles takes dental health on the road
Your Caddo Parish student may have recently come home with information about how to keep their teeth healthy while at school.
It is a program called Miles for Smiles. Miles for Smiles is a mobile dental health provider that gears comprehensive dental care toward area school children. This innovative service has two fully-equipped dental units that travel to local schools providing dental care such as cleanings, X-rays, sealants and more.
Dr. Jeremy Simms Alexander created the Miles for Smiles concept after experiencing mobile dentistry in Georgia. He and his wife, Anneka Alexander, were living there at the time, and he was practicing dentistry at a traditional office. The opportunity arose for Dr. Alexander to work one day a week as a mobile dentist, and he loved it.
“[Mobile dentistry] is needed. There are a lot of kids who don’t go to the dentist for various reasons,” said Dr. Alexander. “A lot of kids slip through the cracks, and they’re not at an age where they can articulate that something is wrong in their mouth.”
Originally from Louisiana, the couple knew this resource was unavailable in Shreveport or the surrounding areas. “I get excited because I realize we serve all students, regardless of where they live. We are out of the box with our approach. ... We enjoy being in the community. We enjoy providing the service,” said Miles for Smiles education coordinator Anneka. “[Dr. Alexander] enjoys going where the needs are and bringing access to families.”
Miles for Smiles has been serving Caddo students since 2015; however, the dental practice recently opened a brick-and-mortar location in Shreveport at 3226 Mackey Lane, Suite 121. Now, staff may see patients with more complex issues they cannot resolve in the mobile unit. “We realized very quickly that a lot of times the kids still don’t receive treatment when we refer them for advanced treatment or dental disease,” said Dr. Alexander. “Now, instead of referring these children, we can refer them to our own office. We have the ability to handle more extreme cases that we can’t do in the mobile.”
Mobile units handle routine care and dental education. A doctor, dental hygienist, two assistants, an X-ray technician and a driver who is also a certified X-ray tech, staff each unit.
Depending on your child’s needs, a Miles for Smiles visit may include:
X-rays Exam Cleaning Fluoride Sealants Fillings Simple tooth extractions Oral health education A dental report card A new toothbrush and toothpaste Anneka says Miles for Smiles can serve all Caddo Parish public elementary, middle and high schools. The practice also serves Bossier and DeSoto Parish public school students.
Students also miss less instructional time because they remain in class until it’s their turn to be seen. Each unit serves one school per day. So, when a mobile unit arrives at a school, that is the dental office location that day. The dental staff in the mobile typically see an average of 30 to 40 students in one day.
An additional benefit of the service is fewer appointments and time off work for parents. In most medical practices, a parent may only schedule an appointment for two children at a time. So, if a family has more than two children, that’s another appointment and more time off work for mom or dad. “I tell people that at Miles for Smiles, we’ve turned the waiting room into the classroom,” said Annika. “They literally stay in class until it’s time for them to be seen on the mobile unit.”
Many of the kids Miles for Smiles treats are first-time dental patients. The staff gently approaches children who may be scared or apprehensive, called Tell Show Do. “We tell them what we’re going to do. We show them what we’re going to do, and we try to do it,” said Dr. Alexander. “We don’t force treatment on them. We let them watch treatment on other kids that we are trying to get them to do. The patients being able to see dental care being done on their peer group – that helps.”
Each child receives love and praise during their Miles for Smiles appointment and goes home with a report card to show their parents. “We’re trying to be accountable to the needs that we see. We want to be an option to the community to satisfy those needs,” said Dr. Alexander.
Miles for Smiles accepts most dental insurance and schedules sameday appointments. The practice also offers 24-hour on-call services for dental emergencies. Patients and potential patients may call the Shreveport office at (318) 317-2800 or visit milesforsmiles.com for more information.