Ohio State Dental Journal

A Dental Home For Children Who Need it Most

“If you build it they will come” can be said both about the baseball diamond in Field of Dreams and the KidSMILES dental clinic in Columbus, Ohio. The non-profit clinic that began in 2008 as an idea hashed out around a kitchen table today has more than 500 volunteers. 

Located just off State Route 315 six miles north of campus, KidSMILES provides comprehensive dental care and education to patients 18 and younger whose families earn less than 250% of the federal poverty level, or $60,000 for a family of four—too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not necessarily enough to cover trips to the dentist. The visits cost the patient just $10. 

KidSMILES founder and president James Homon ’95 DDS, ’98 MS conceived the idea for the clinic from conversations with friends and colleagues. “I knew a lot of people who’d done free dentistry in their offices," he said. “Talking with them it just seemed that if there were a better, more organized way to do it, more people would.”

“For any one person to do it, it’s too overwhelming a task. But if everyone gives a little bit, you see the cumulative effect. As a group we are so much more powerful.”

Dr. Homon figured out an effective way to manage his vision—a result that helped earn him the Ohio Dental Association’s Marvin Fisk Humanitarian Award in 2014. The KidSMILES clinic, which opened in 2012, receives support from events and numerous organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the Ohio Dental Association Foundation. Its volunteers donate dental services and administrative support, do educational outreach in schools, work at events, and more. 

“We don’t ask for a big commitment of volunteers," Homon said. “If providers want to come in once a year, that’s great. We encourage them to bring their whole dental team; it’s a great team-building experience. When I hear, ‘So-and-so had never volunteered before and they just signed up to do it again in three months,’ that’s music to my ears—that someone had the same experience I had and wants to do more.”

Homon feels more than just a desire to help other people. “When you get to do what we do and have the careers we have, you have an obligation to give back to the community,” he said. “When you think about other childhood diseases that aren’t so simple, dentistry is so solvable—the only obstacle, really, is money. I’m not out to save the world, but if we can help kids avoid some cavities, that’s a good start.” 

The American Academy of Pediatrics has underscored the critical role of pediatricians and other medical professionals in promoting the health and well-being of all children in the community—a point Homon takes
to heart.

“For any one person to do it, it’s too overwhelming a task. But if everyone gives a little bit, you see the cumulative effect. As a group we are so much more powerful.”