Restore Teenage Smiles: Improved grades

April 10, 2012

Having a beautiful smile would change everything for her son. Jalen’s mother had tried to get him the dental care he needed, but the family had faced hard times over the years and they were unable to afford it. Accidents resulting in trauma to his mouth as a child had left him with a broken smile.

Having a beautiful smile would change everything for her son. Jalen’s mother had tried to get him the dental care he needed, but the family had faced hard times over the years and they were unable to afford it. Accidents resulting in trauma to his mouth as a child had left him with a broken smile.

A hardworking student and a talented artist, Jalen had great potential, but poor oral health was robbing him of his self-esteem and ability to concentrate in school. He was painfully shy and covered his mouth when he spoke. Afraid of being teased because of his ugly smile, making friends proved to be an impossible task. So Jalen kept to himself and was considered a loner. He refrained from asking for help with his studies during class, fearing the attention and ridicule that could bring. Enduring constant pain and shame, he began to struggle academically. Then, the unfortunate loss of his beloved grandmother further shattered his fragile spirit. 

Jalen’s mother felt powerless as her son retreated into a shell of silence and pain with each passing year. Realizing his future was in jeopardy, Jalen’s mother vowed to find a way to help her son. Then, tragedy struck once again. Before she could realize her dream of seeing her son smile again, she died.

All hope was not lost. Touched by the dignified way that Jalen continued on in spite of his terrible loss, his art teacher could not simply watch as this gifted teen suffered in silence. She could see that his poor oral health was damaging his self-esteem and making it difficult for him to learn and even speak.  “He is so self-conscious about his teeth. Jalen has the most insightful comments, yet when he speaks, he covers his mouth with his hand every time, making him difficult to understand.”

Compelled to take up his mother’s charge to find a way to give Jalen the healthy smile he deserved, his teacher reached out to Tomorrow’s SMILES®, a teen program of the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation: America’s Toothfairy®(NCOHF) that provides promising, at-risk teens with comprehensive oral health services to help prepare them for healthy, successful futures. “ Jalen would greatly appreciate the opportunity for a better smile and to fulfill his mother’s wish,” she remarked about this remarkable young man.

Sponsored by the Patterson Foundation, Tomorrow’s SMILES helps restore smiles and self- esteem while encouraging teens to take responsibility for their oral health. Caring volunteer dentists provide pro-bono restorative services to a pre-screened ambitious teen. Tomorrow’s SMILES volunteer dentists also have access to generously donated dental products from Invisalign® and Nobel Biocare(including Procera®) to help restore the smiles of pre-screened, promising teens. 

In return for receiving this life-changing care, participating teens Pay It Forward by sharing their newfound oral health knowledge through interactive oral health lessons with younger children in their community.

Pay It Forwardenables these teens to serve as mentors and teachers to children, encouraging good oral health habits that will help them maintain beautiful, happy smiles throughout their lives and help break the cycle of pediatric dental disease in their own community.

Jalen underwent full orthodontic treatment, thanks to Drs. Jennifer Ludwig, Dr. Eugene Simon and their dedicated staff. Dr. Stephen Shall generously donated his services and performed Jalen’s oral surgery. Dr. Ted Beitelschees, Anne Britt, RDH and the Owens Community College Dental Center and Dental Hygiene Clinic provided preventive and restorative dental services. As his oral health improved, his grades improved as well. No longer avoiding eye contact with others, Jalen smiles easily and confidently. “This has been a rewarding experience for me and others who know Jalen’s story,” commented Anne Britt, RDH of Owens Community College. By donating their time and expertise, these dental professionals helped make a mother’s wish come true and restored Jalen’s smile, his confidence and hope for a happy, healthy future.

You can help transform a teen’s needless pain and suffering into a beautiful smile and the promise of a brighter future by volunteering for Tomorrow’s SMILES.  To learn more about Tomorrow’s SMILES, visit www.TomorrowsSMILES.org. Email Brenda Woodington at bwoodington@ncohf.org to volunteer to save a smile and change a teen’s life today!