The college's Dental Hygiene program and the local dental community are teaming up to offer a variety of dental treatments to children aged 5 to 12.
There are different socioeconomic groups in the community, said Dr. Julius Mans, the college's dental program director. The first are wealthy enough to afford sufficient dental coverage. The second are eligible for Medicaid and receive dental coverage through the government program.
"A third group, caught in the middle, makes too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to afford dental coverage," he said. "That's really the group we're trying to target."
This year's event had 54 spots and nine chairs available, said Sarah Espinoza, a special projects coordinator at the United Way who handled booking for the event.
All spots are currently booked, she said.
But Give Kids a Smile Day is just one of many community efforts to improve the public's dental hygiene, Manz said. Many dentists in the community offer pro bono services or discounts to people who cannot afford coverage.
The college's dental clinic also offers many services to the community, he said, and the event will not just be about providing care.
"We take the patients and their parents and educate them on proper oral hygiene," Manz said.
Throughout the day dental hygiene students will give oral hygiene lessons, X-rays, cleanings and fluoride treatments. Community dentists will provide oral examinations and dental treatment.
In previous years, more than $40,000 worth of dental work has been performed.
In addition to providing free dental care, the event also helps connect patients to a network of community dentists and helps to build relationships within the dental community, Manz said.
"It builds camaraderie within the dental community," he said. "We all come together and work toward this common goal."
For more information on the event, contact the San Juan College Dental Hygiene program at 505-566-3126.