Talk of the Bay from KSQD
Semillitas and Dientes: Promoting Children's Health

In this interview, I speak with Maria Cadenas of SC Community Ventures and Dr. Sepi Tagvaei, chief dental office at Dientes Clinic about this program to improve dental health in children while giving them a college savings account early in life.

A Santa Cruz County First:  Children Receive College Funds for Going to the Dentist

Dientes and Santa Cruz Community Ventures (SCCV) have announced a new partnership as part of College Saving Month that provides up to $200 to help parents in Santa Cruz County get an early start on saving for their child’s college or vocational training after high school. The partnership, valued at $300,000, connects SCCV’s Semillitas program, which provides a college savings account to every newborn in the county, with Dientes’ oral health care to ensure kids get a head start on a bright future and bright smile.

Education and medical care are primary social determinants of health that affect a wide range of outcomes throughout a child’s life. Investing in both early on can improve their wellbeing and social-emotional development, which has been a proven predictor of increased academic achievement later in life. Studies have shown that children from low-income backgrounds with a college savings account are 3X more likely to attend college and 4X more likely to graduate from a university.

“One of our primary goals at Dientes is to make prevention more common than treatment and that begins when a child’s first tooth appears,” said Laura Marcus, Chief Executive Officer at Dientes. “Semillitas is giving parents in Santa Cruz County the opportunity to begin investing in their children’s health, education, and future from the day they are born, and we are thrilled to be a partner in this innovative program and provide incentives for preventative dental care along the way.”

There are three ways that Dientes will celebrate oral health milestones with gifts to a child’s Semillitas account:  a child’s first tooth or first birthday visit, annual visit (ages 2-5), and sealant visit (age 6).

“We want all children to know they have the potential, health, and support needed for their success, regardless of where they come from or their family’s finances,” said Maria Cadenas, Executive Director of SCCV. “Together, we are working to help create a community with a vibrant future for our kids.”

Santa Cruz Community Ventures

SCCV, a nonprofit organization, partners with rural Latino working-class families in California’s Central Coast to implement transformational programs that ensure a shared and prosperous economic future for all.


A program powered by SCCV, Semillitas provides a college savings account to all Santa Cruz County’s babies born after December 31, 2020.

Dientes Community Dental Care

Dientes is on a mission to create lasting oral health for underserved children and adults in Santa Cruz County and neighboring communities. 97% of Dientes’ patients live at or below the poverty level. Dientes accepts Medi-Cal and offers sliding scale fees for uninsured patients.