Dental Services for Children with Special Healthcare Needs

Healthy Smiles for Kids of Orange County (Healthy Smiles) has truly shown their superhero strength amidst a global pandemic, where cavities do not stop progressing. On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic and overnight, Healthy Smiles had to make the difficult decision to shut down all mobile dental units, outreach events, and non-urgent dental services. In that one day, roughly 1,200 patient appointments were canceled. While many dental offices were not accepting new patients; Healthy Smiles was one of the 5% of dental clinics that were open nationwide and treating patients at the onset of the pandemic ( We did not turn away a single child. During the nine-week lockdown, Healthy Smiles triaged approximately 250 emergency calls from parents whose children were suffering with dental pain or infection. Healthy Smiles is the only pediatric dental clinic in the county that offers sedation services for children with special healthcare needs at little or no cost through our affiliation with Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) and University of Southern California (USC) Dental School. When underserved children with special healthcare needs have nowhere to go, Healthy Smiles gives them the quality dental care they deserve. We are the dental home for families like Dustin’s, who is a Healthy Smiles patient with special healthcare needs.



A Healthy Smiles Smile Mobile was parked outside of the CHOC Children’s Thompson Autism Center prepared to help all children with special healthcare needs receive critical dental care, such as 13-year-old Dustin. Dustin’s mother brought him to Healthy Smiles after noticing that he was experiencing mouth pain. No child should suffer from severe dental pain that keeps them from chewing, sleeping, and learning. She was referred to Healthy Smiles by a CHOC doctor who knew that we are equipped and trained to treat children with special healthcare needs.


Dustin had a G-tube surgery in 2018, and experiences medical complications such as muscular dystrophy, asthma, heart problems, and autism. Dustin’s single mother expressed that he has struggled with dentist appointments in the past. Children with autism and other medical complications may be more sensitive to medical settings and treatments, which often makes it difficult for them to receive the critical care they need.


Our team consists of not only experts in providing dental treatment, but also experts in delivering personalized, family-centered care. As Dustin’s mother pushed him in a wheelchair to the doors of the Healthy Smiles Smile Mobile, our staff accommodated to make sure that Dustin received care in the most comfortable way possible. The staff brought out the portable dental equipment and screened Dustin outside of the mobile as his mother helped comfort and support him throughout. No matter what obstacles present themselves, our Healthy Smiles staff goes above and beyond to ensure our patients receive compassionate care without any trouble for the child or parent. We are happy that Dustin and his mother have scheduled their appointment with Healthy Smiles in six months as well, establishing Healthy Smiles as their dental home.