BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A beautiful smile can be a costly thing. But for the city’s only high school with a dental program, healthy smiles are free of charge.

Gigi Barnett explains the school has a new lab to make students college and career ready.

For most dental assistants, this kind of hands-on help comes after high school graduation. But for students at Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy in Baltimore, they’re getting it now.

“To go to a career school and get this type of education, it’s going to cost you about $20,000 and an extra 11 months after high school,” said Lakia Cook, dental assistant teacher.

The classroom is a brand new state-of-the-art dental lab. After a year and a half of construction, leaders unveiled it Friday. It has new lights, equipment and dental stations. There’s no other public school program in Baltimore like it.

“I just love everything about this school. There are so many opportunities here. I mean, you can get certified when you graduate,” said Kyra Troupe, dental student.

While the students will learn everything they need to know in the lab for their certifications, next year, they’ll get internships. They’ll go to real dental offices and get real world experience.

“Wow. If they can skip that step of having to go to a career school and go straight to dentistry, wouldn’t that be wonderful for them?” Cook said.

And soon, students will begin treating patients in the neighborhood.

“This community has people who might not get health care somewhere else. That would be the best thing about this,” said Troupe.

That means healthy smiles for all.

The Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy also celebrated its 10th anniversary this week.

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