Wake Smiles was founded by a few concerned dentists in 2001 as a volunteer dental program treating low income, uninsured adults of Wake County. Wake Smiles partnered with Wake Health Services, Inc. (WHSI), as the volunteer component of their dental program. Restricted clinical hours and limited growth potential in the WHSI New Bern Ridge Clinic led Wake Smiles to seek new opportunities to expand services to low income county residents.
With strong support from The Rotary Club of Raleigh, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, Patterson Dental Company, The Salvation Army and individual donors the clinic opened to patients on March 29, 2014 in The Salvation Army Judy D. Zelnak Center of Hope on Capital Boulevard in Raleigh
Lower income adults have far fewer visits to the dentist and lose considerably more teeth over time than higher income adults due to the cost of dental care, unemployment, no insurance, transportation issues, educational levels, etc. By the age of 65, about 40% of adults in household with an income less than $15,000 have lost all their natural teeth. Dental diseases are increasingly being linked to cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and other systemic problems
Wake Smiles is the only dental home in Wake County that sees uninsured adults who fall within the 200% poverty guidelines. Eligibility is determined by the safety net providers who refer to Wake Smiles. There is a $35 copay for each significant visit and patients are responsible for laboratory fees for partials, crowns and dentures. Staffed by volunteer dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, dental assisting students, dental students, hygiene students and pre-dental students. Wake Smiles accepts referrals from local safety net organizations: Alliance Medical Ministry, Fellowship Home of Raleigh, Healing Transitions, Mariam Clinic, Raleigh Rescue Mission, The Salvation Army, TROSA and Urban Ministries of Wake County Open Door Clinic.