Healthy Smiles Forever

A smile a day keeps the doctor away.

The mere act of smiling can lift one’s mood, lower stress, boost the immune system and even prolong one’s life. Yet, for many older adults, smiling, and even eating and communicating are a challenge as a result of oral health issues. 

Elders in assisted-living and long-term care facilities are at particular risk of poor oral health. Without the infrastructure for consistent dental care or staff trained in providing dental hygiene services, dental problems are common. 

The difficulty in transporting elderly residents with mobility issues makes dental care even harder to access. Some residents are unable to stand up and scoot into a wheelchair. Even if they can get into the wheelchair, dental offices cannot physically lift patients from that wheelchair to the dental chair safely. For others, cognitive and other physical limitations present additional barriers.

Royann Royer, a local dental hygienist, saw this gap in care and decided to take matters into her own hands. 

She began visiting assisted-living facility residents and discussing the need for dental care with the administrators. Recognizing the scale of the issue, Royer partnered with Christian Health Associates to develop Healthy Smiles Forever. Today, it provides comprehensive on-site dental services to residents of five assisted-living and long-term care facilities in Palmer, Wasilla, and Anchorage. Healthy Smiles Forever is the only such organization in Alaska.

With over 20% of Mat-Su residents over the age of 60, access to this type of dental care is essential, and the need is expected to increase with time. By offering preventive services, restorative services, denture services and non-surgical extractions at each site one to two days a week, Healthy Smiles Forever is improving the overall health of Mat-Su’s older adultss—and promoting more smiles. 

 Mat-Su Health Foundation helps Healthy Smiles Forever make dental care more accessible.

In 2023, Mat-Su Health Foundation awarded $250,000 to Christian Health Associates and Healthy Smiles Forever to expand its services for more than 200 residents at three long-term care facilities in the Mat-Su. The grant allowed Healthy Smiles Forever to pay dental care specialists, expand their in-facility services and provide training and education to CNAs and other providers.

The fact that people can get the care they need where they live has brought an incredible sense of relief for residents and their families. The Mat-Su Health Foundation is proud to support this critical work.