Kids in Need of Dentistry provides free dental care for low-income Denver students

A nonprofit first started to provide dental care to the families of railroad workers and coal miners is continuing its more-than-a-century-old legacy by serving the Denver area’s low-income children.

Kids in Need of Dentistry tackles a preventable problem — oral pain and decay — by offering its dental services to adolescents in the Mile High City. Parents worried about choosing between rent and their child’s dental care can rest easy: KIND provides its services for free and reduced costs.

Ellie Burbee, executive director, pointed to oral health troubles as “the leading cause of missed school hours in the U.S.” Oral pain can cause headaches, and impact eating, sleeping and confidence.

Over 40% of children aged 2 to 11 have suffered tooth decay in their primary teeth, with Black, Hispanic and lower-income children dealing with it more often, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research reported.

“It’s instant impact when we’re able to get a child out of pain,” Burbee said. “You see kids just completely change after an interaction with KIND.”

Ian Martinez — a first-grade student in 2020 — suffered from cavities after sneaking candy, his mother Marisol said. But, at the time, her insurance didn’t cover dental care, so the family turned to KIND.

“How can I be more grateful with KIND if they’re helping me with their health — the health of my loved ones?” she added.

A group of dentists — now known as the Metro Denver Dental Society — first started the nonprofit to care for the families of railroad workers and coal miners. Today, its focus has shifted predominantly to students, with the Chopper Topper program’s dental hygiene team visiting more than 100 Denver-area schools.

The mobile dental program established in 1998 provides onsite screening, preventative care and more. Schools qualify if 50% or more of their students participate in the free or reduced lunch program. That includes early childhood centers, elementary schools and some secondary or high schools.

Its oral health care centers also offer dental and orthodontic care, with a location in Commerce City at 7190 Colorado Blvd. and two in Denver: downtown at 925 Lincoln St. and East Park Hill at 3401 Eudora St.

A language barrier shouldn’t stop interested parents either, as the KIND team includes bilingual employees. The nonprofit accepts Medicaid and the Child Health Plan Plus — a public low-cost health insurance for certain children and pregnant women— while also treating the uninsured.

“These are real kids with real dreams,” Burbee said.

The COVID-19 pandemic slowed the nonprofit’s efforts, as they weren’t deemed essential workers. Before that, they’d also started rural outreach programming, which Burbee hopes to bring back in the future.

“Our patients sometimes travel from three hours away to come see us,” she said. “When you need dental care, you need dental care.”

Kids in Need of Dentistry

Address: 7190 Colorado Blvd., Suite #300, Commerce City, Colo. 80022

In operation since: 1912

Number of employees: 15

Annual budget: About $1.5 million

Estimated number of clients served in 2022: More than 10,000

The Denver Post Season To Share is the annual holiday fundraising campaign for The Denver Post and The Denver Post Community Foundation, a recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, tax identification #27-4328521. Grants are awarded to local nonprofit agencies that provide life-changing programs to help low-income children, families and individuals move out of poverty toward stabilization and self-sufficiency. Visit for more information.  

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