As early as 2002 a group of local dental professionals and concerned citizens from Stone and Christian counties in Missouri began meeting to discuss the need for professional dental services for children eligible for Missouri Medicaid.
Out of many meetings and committees formed to investigate what might be possible came the formation of the Children’s Smile Center (CSC). This organization was incorporated with the State of Missouri as a non-profit corporation and also received 501(c)(3) status from the IRS.
In 2005, word was received from the Missouri Foundation for Health of their award of a $400,000+ grant for the purposes of funding the three-year start-up process for a stand-alone permanent dental clinic to serve needy children from low-income families.
The Children’s Smile Center facility in Ozark came into being during 2006 with significant donations from the community, local dental professionals, and building contractors and suppliers. Joe Millsap was hired as the first administrator in 2005.
The first children were welcomed to the facility during December of 2006 and patient growth has progressed dramatically ever since. The first clinic floor-plan utilized a former private dental office with three operatories, giving CSC the ability to accomplish 24 dental visits each day. Staff included local dentists, one each day, who worked at the Children’s Smile Center on one of their private practice “days off,” supported by the necessary dental assistants, registered dental hygienists and administrative staff.
As the organization stabilized and grew, additional staff members were hired in a variety of roles. Board members of the corporation continued to be all-volunteer and met regularly directing overall vision and policy, overseeing the financial structure of the corporation, and providing supervision and guidance for the Executive Director. Rogetta Prueitt was hired in 2007 to direct the Children’s Smile Center. During her tenure significant growth occurred, mainly due to the doubling of capacity in 2009, adding three additional operatories. This allowed the clinic to regularly utilize up to five operatories at a time, with the sixth available for overflow, emergencies or equipment maintenance.
Dr. Joe Dills was the first full-time dentist for the Smile Center, beginning a two-year stay in 2007. Dr. Tanner Rust started with the Smile Center in 2009 and is currently working in his second two-year contract as full-time dentist.
The Children’s Smile Center board hired Jackie Barger in 2010 as Executive Director. To date the highlight of his tenure has been the addition of the Branson West clinic in 2011. CSC began renting a professional dental office from Dr. Frank Schmidt one day per week in January of 2011. In August of 2011 a second day per week was added providing a capacity of up to 48 dental visits each week for children who reside in southern Stone County.
Through the years, grant funding and generous donations have allowed the Smile Center to stay current with the latest in training, equipment and dental technology, including all-digital patient files and internet-based computer billing and filing with Missouri Medicaid.
In addition, the Children’s Smile Center has been a popular destination for local students of OTC, Vatterott College and Everest College as they complete their academic programs in dental hygiene and dental assisting. Students regularly rotate in and out of the Children’s Smile Center and CSC staff continues to provide advice and guidance to both students and the academic programs at local colleges.
In January of 2012 the Children’s Smile Center Board of Directors approved the addition of Lawrence and Barry counties to the existing service area of Stone and Christian counties. Possible goals in the near future include additional satellite clinics, continual upgrading of dental technology, growth in the service area (more counties) and dramatic increases in numbers of licensed dentists and support staff.