Restored smile, renewed hope

March 21, 2012

This is the story about Zeb, a promising Brooklyn high school student who privately suffered pain and embarrassment stemming from the effects of poor oral health. He was afraid to smile when asked to “say cheese” for a camera and dreaded meeting new people, fearing ridicule once they saw his unsightly smile.

This is the story about Zeb, a promising Brooklyn high school student who privately suffered pain and embarrassment stemming from the effects of poor oral health. He was afraid to smile when asked to “say cheese” for a camera and dreaded meeting new people, fearing ridicule once they saw his unsightly smile.

Struggling with this throughout his life, he was self-conscious and afraid to be himself in a large crowd. Unable to afford necessary dental treatment, his hopes for achieving his dreams withered as he wondered how he would he could succeed when he was too ashamed to smile confidently in an interview. 

A bright student, Zeb showed great promise, but his damaged self-esteem and shaken confidence were holding him back. He was always judging himself and wished more than anything he could smile with confidence. Zeb and his mom did not have the resources to get the dental treatment he so desperately needed, so they turned to Tomorrow’s SMILES®,a teen program of the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation: America’s Toothfairy®(NCOHF), for help.

Poor oral health can be devastating for an adolescent struggling to fit in and prepare for a successful future. Zeb is not alone in this struggle. More than 51 million school hours are missed each year from dental disease. While they are in school, many suffering teens are distracted by pain and embarrassment, causing poor academic and social development.  Even more disturbing are the effects this can have on their future. Their struggles of today can shatter their hopes and dreams for their future. Every day, more than 1,200 adolescents abandon high school education and, in many cases, give up on themselves.

Tomorrow’s SMILES was designed to give teens like Zeb the building blocks they need for healthy, productive futures by providing them with life-changing oral health services. Through this innovative program sponsored by the Patterson Foundation, volunteer dental practitioners provide pro bono services to promising at-risk teens in their community, restoring their self-esteem and encouraging them to take responsibility for their oral health. Volunteer dentists participating in Tomorrow’s SMILES have access to generously donated 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 Forward enables 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 to break the cycle of pediatric dental disease in their own community. As a teen mentor, Zeb had the opportunity to share valuable knowledge and promote good oral health habits with children in his community. The children enjoyed the experience so much they asked him to teach the lessons again!

Volunteer Tomorrow’s SMILES dentists like Dr. Anthony Ramirez truly make a difference in the young lives they touch. “I really want them to understand how much of an impact they have had on my life. Without their help, I would not be the person I am today, with the confidence to take on any challenge,” Zeb stated about Dr. Anthony Ramirez and his team. 

Zeb is now attending his first year of college on a full scholarship. 

“I have been blessed with an incredible gift,” remarked Zeb about his restored, beautiful smile and renewed hope for a future filled with possibilities ahead.

You can help transform a teen’s needless pain and suffering into a happy, 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.orgto volunteer for this smile-saving, life-changing program!