Like many people, I loathe going to the dentist. The idea of machines buzzing inside my mouth and leaving my gums sore just doesn’t sound appealing enough for me to skip half a day of work. As a child, I dreaded those two days a year more than any other. But, thanks to my parents’ employer-covered dental insurance (and my mom’s insistence), I always went. I’ve still never had a cavity.

Not every child has the luxury of regular visits to the dentist. Many have seen a dentist for preventive care in the past year (77.6 percent thanks to the passing of the Affordable Care Act and increases in Medicaid coverage), but children from low-income families are far more likely to skip the recommended biannual trip—some because they lack insurance.

The American Dental Association seeks to change that with its annual Give Kids a Smile Day, during which underserved kids receive free oral health care from more than 7,000 dentists. On Friday throughout the Denver area, about 10 providers, including the Colorado Orthodontic Foundation, the University of Colorado Denver School of Dental Medicine, and Concorde Career College, are offering GKAS services. (Check the Colorado Dental Association’s website for a partial list and the ADA’s site for all participating dentists in the state.)

Kids are eligible if they:

  • are 17 years old or younger
  • come from a disadvantaged family who can’t afford insurance
  • can get a ride to a participating provider and show up on time

A trip to the dentist may not be the most enjoyable thing, but Give Kids a Smile Day will help keep smiles bright all year long.

Follow editorial assistant Mary Clare Fischer on Twitter at @mc_fischer.