My wife and I started Smile for a Lifetime Foundation in Jonesboro, AR back in 2008 because we were already giving a way a great deal of free orthodontic care but wanted to make it more democratic and we also wanted to create a system where doing pro bono work benefited our business as well as the recipients. It’s difficult to judge the success of such a thing empirically but given the growth and national/international success has enjoyed I would say things are working out pretty well! Smile for a Lifetime Foundation has hundreds of chapters across the US and Canada, treats thousands of kids and gives away millions in Orthodontic Scholarships each year!!


A few stats on Smile for a Lifetime

Total # of orthodontists who participate in the program 184

Total # of recipients to date 2,843 (in 2014 we served 712)

Total # of chapters throughout the US = 147  and Canada = 9 (14 pending)

Since inception chapters, sponsors and donors have donated over 20 million dollars in orthodontic, dental services and goods

This last year did a little over 4.5 million in donated services


What is Smile for a Lifetime?

Well, S4L is a 501c6 nonprofit that operates in the US and Canada to provide Orthodontic Scholarships to kids in desperate need who would not have access to care otherwise.

How does S4L work?

S4L is a network of geographically exclusive orthodontists who form their very own local chapter, board of directors and rules for awarding Orthodontic Scholarships.

How do you form a local board of directors and what do they do?

It takes time and effort to set up an S4L chapter. The local board of directors is essential and often includes community leaders like TV personalities, Radio personalities, Newspaper personalities, a banker, a lawyer, school board members/directors, YMCA directors, foster care directors, Boys and Girls Club directors, and so on. The goal is to create a board that will integrate you into the community and have the access, credibility and visibility to attract candidates for treatment.

How do patients apply?

Good question! There are some generally guidelines and suggestions but the founding doctor and the local board of directors set the rules for their chapters. It’s your chapter after all.

Why have a board of directors? I want to choose who I treat.

Having a BOD allows you to interface with the community and to make your chapter a legitimate non-profit in the eyes of the public and not just a marketing scheme. The board selects the patients but you have total control over which cases are treatable and which are not. Also, any hygiene or compliance or behavior issues are dealt with swiftly in most offices that do S4L – I know I simply will not tolerate any deviation from what I expect from Scholarship Recipients. I usually see these patients mid morning as well and make this clear on the front end. I’ve treated hundreds of kids through S4L and I’ve only dismissed a couple. Other doctors find the same – that the compliance and appreciation are huge!

Also, having a board of directors choose patients protects you from PCDs and friends asking you to select the person they want to get an Orthodontic Scholarship. When asked, I just say, “The board of directors selects patients and I just treat them!”

What’s in it for me and my practice?

Great question! S4L benefits you and your practice and that is why Smile for a Lifetime has been so successful and has become so widespread. First there is the satisfaction of knowing that you’re giving back to the community in a regular, fair and significant way. Second, it’s a great way to interface with the community in a meaningful and significant way. Third people like to do business with socially responsible businesses. Finally, it allows you to focus your charity on what you do best and where you can have the maximum impact. I used to give randomly to traveling t-ball or dance teams or whatever but these days when we are asked to donate we hand out a letter that explains why we choose to devote all our charitable efforts to helping kids in need overcome a social handicap. People are almost always satisfied that we are going above and beyond for the community when they are educated about our Orthodontic Scholarships.

How many cases do I have to treat?

To form a chapter, you must treat at least 6 cases a year but most doctors do 12 a year that are chosen from among the applicants at quarterly board meetings. Ormco will even give you your brackets and wires for free!

Do yourself a favor and check out You won’t regret it!