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A New Smile Takes Flight

America's SmileCovering his mouth when he smiled, Tyler barely spoke.  He had difficulty chewing his food so he refrained from eating in public whenever possible.   Although he was in desperate need of dental treatment, he had not seen a dentist in many years.  Unable to work, his mother is on dialysis several times a week and his father, a veteran, suffers from a brain injury incurred during his time in the service.  As a result, Tyler’s family struggles for basic necessities like food, shelter and electricity that many of us take for granted.   With two younger siblings, Tyler often puts his own needs aside in order to care for his family.

Seeing the talent and intellect hidden behind Tyler’s covered smile, his grandparents did their best to nurture his gifts.   While they struggled to make ends meet themselves, they encouraged his participation in the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), seeing it as an opportunity to build Tyler’s confidence.  As a 1st Lieutenant, he hopes to attend the National Emergency Services Academy and achieve the ranking of 2nd Lieutenant to become eligible for scholarships.  With dreams of becoming an Unmanned Aircraft Vehicle pilot in the Air Force, Tyler possessed the drive, intelligence and skill necessary for such a challenge.  Lacking confidence and too embarrassed to even talk with his fellow cadets, Tyler’s future dreams withered.  How could he hope to lead others when he was too ashamed to speak to them?

An estimated 17 million low-income children in America go without dental care each year. This represents one out of every five children between the ages of 1 and 18 in the United States. Tyler is one of these promising youth suffering from a silent epidemic negatively impacting his quality of life and his future.

Seeing how poor oral health was damaging her grandson’s self-esteem, Tyler’s grandmother reached out to Tomorrow’s SMILES®, a teen program of 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.  Sponsored by the Patterson Foundation and Philips Sonicare, Tomorrow’s SMILES helps restore smiles and self esteem while encouraging teens to take responsibility for their oral health. Through this program, caring volunteer dentists provide pro-bono restorative services for a prescreened underserved teen and have access to generously donated products from Invisalign® and Nobel Biocare™ (including Procera®).

Participating teens then Pay It Forward by serving 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 community.

Thanks to Leonard Hess, DDS, a Dawson Academy faculty member, and J. Turner Hull, DDS, MS, Tyler is receiving life-changing oral health services.  As a pilot, Dr. Hess immediately developed a unique bond with Tyler.  He said,  “Tyler is a great young man and we share a common interest in aviation.  I could see how important it was for him to feel good about his smile.  To make a positive impact on this teen’s life is extremely gratifying.”  Volunteering their time and expertise, these dentists are not only giving Tyler the gift of a smile; they are giving him hope.

When asked about the impact changing his smile has had on his life, Tyler remarked, “Now, I am more positive, outgoing and see myself as a leader.”  He then expressed great appreciation for the efforts of Drs. Leonard Hess and J. Turner Hull, “I am very grateful for all they have done for me.”  With renewed confidence, this well-spoken, hard-working teen is now facing his future with a big smile.

Tomorrow’s SMILES has had a big impact on his life.  He has gained confidence, self-esteem and become a leader among his peers,” remarked his grandfather, Phillip, about the incredible change in Tyler since beginning his treatment.

Tomorrow's SmilesYou 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!

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