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Orthodontists Work Together Bringing Smiles to Kids in Need

(Reprinted with permission from News 14 Carolina)
More than a dozen orthodontists in North Carolina are giving the gifts of smiles to kids in need and now, another chapter of the nonprofit Smile For A Lifetime is gearing up in the Matthews, Mint Hill and Union County.

Dr. Gary Starr and Dr. Steven Dickens are currently accepting applications for the new chapter. One of the most recent applications received was similar to others, saying: “I've always had a crooked smile. I've been made fun of and called names. I barely talk to anyone because I don't want them to look at my teeth. I try not to smile because it makes me ugly, and every time I laugh, I cover my mouth. My parents tell me all the time I'm beautiful but with my smile, I don't feel that way.”

Starr and Dickens said they know the difference a great smile can make in a person's life, which is why they want to help.

"Growing up, teeth are in the top three things that kids make fun of each other about,” said Dickens. “And so it has a huge impact and even just putting braces on gives people hope that they're changing their situation."

It's a nonprofit in which children living below the poverty level with a severe aesthetic need can be selected for free orthodontic work and while it's not a necessity, it's something that can drastically change a child's life and self-confidence.

"Something that the kid can ignore, that's not a big deal. You can always change your hair. You can always pluck your eyebrows. You can't fix your teeth by yourself," said Dr. Anne Radke, a board member and the principal at Piedmont Middle School.

From school work to socializing, even getting a job, a smile and self-esteem affect it all.

"You can give somebody that self confidence to be themselves and gain a little bit more courage to seek out more people and do other things and have more interactions. It has a huge impact on your personal development," said Dickens.

Starr says he's seen patients who are shy, quiet, and won't smile because they are ashamed of their teeth, but that all changes.

"At the end of the treatment, it's an amazing transformation,” said Starr. “These kids are rejuvenated. They're confident. They're smiling all the time. It's so exciting."

The new chapter at Starr Orthodontics plans to give orthodontic scholarships to about a dozen patients each year.

If you'd like to see the application requirements, nominate a child for Smile For A Lifetime, or learn about the closest chapter in your area, click here

Written by: McKinsey Harris, News 14 Carolina Reporter
Posted: Nov 29, 2011 by Karen Barbee

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