Offering hope and happiness to children through the gift of orthodontia

Feb. 9, 2011
DentistryIQ interviews Aimee Spencer, the national executive director for Smile for a Lifetime, about giving a new smile to Daisy, a little girl in California who needed orthodontia but whose family didn’t have the financial means.
By Vicki Cheeseman, Associate EditorDentistryIQ recently had the opportunity to interview Aimee Spencer, the national executive director for Smile for a Lifetime, based in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The organization’s most recent endeavor was to put braces on a little girl named Daisy in California. Daisy is on her way to having the smile she’s always dreamed of. DentistryIQ: Aimee, please tell us about Smile for a Lifetime, its purpose, founding, and mission.Aimee Spencer: Launched in 2008, Smile for a Lifetime Foundation (S4L) is a nonprofit, charitable organization comprised of local chapters throughout the country that provide quality orthodontic treatment for patients who may not have the opportunity to achieve a beautiful, straight smile without financial assistance.S4L equips orthodontists with the resources necessary to help develop a local board of directors that will specifically select individuals for orthodontic treatment. S4L’s aim is to reach individuals with financial challenges, special situations, and orthodontic needs. The foundation sponsors the orthodontic care of hundreds of patients each year.Our mission is to create self-confidence, inspire hope, and change the lives of children in our communities in a dramatic way. The gift of a smile can do all this for deserving, underserved individuals who, in turn, can use this gift to better themselves and their community.Smile for a Lifetime was established in Jonesboro, Ark., by Ben Burris, DDS, MSD. Dr. Burris and his wife had a vision of reaching the underserved children in their community with orthodontic scholarships. Dr. Burris involved me, as a community advocate, in the position of national executive director, to assist in structuring Smile for a Lifetime. DentistryIQ: How do you select the children you reach with their orthodontic issues?Aimee: S4L has an upside-down foundation structure with a grassroots approach. The national foundation guides local communities and orthodontic practices in establishing a local board of directors. This local board is as diverse in its skill sets and resources as is the community it represents. The board selects local children based on submitted applications, reference letters, special circumstances, and need.DentistryIQ: What do S4L patients have to do to qualify for orthodontic care? Aimee: The federal government sets financial guidelines regarding poverty standards based on income. We ask that our S4L kids, parents, and guardians be respectful of the orthodontic practices’ rules and requirements. With hundreds of kids involved in orthodontic treatment, S4L has never removed braces, but this might be something that could happen in the future. However, S4L stresses the value of the orthodontic contribution to our candidates, and most are thrilled with the gift of an orthodontic scholarship.DentistryIQ: What types of treatment does S4L offer to children?Aimee: Smile for a Lifetime's focus is orthodontic treatment. There are instances where extractions may be necessary or other work done to facilitate orthodontic treatment. Many of these services are donated at a local level; however, S4L stays true to the current focus of orthodontic treatment.DentistryIQ: How did you come to know Daisy?Aimee: Daisy, from Southern California, was fortunate enough to have an advocate contact S4L on her behalf. James H. Kimber, a physician assistant from the San Diego area, contacted me in search of treatment. After several months, we were able to find a chapter in Daisy’s area to coordinate treatment for her. She received her Damon braces on Jan. 22, 2011. Click here to watch a video of the day Dr. Tom Pitts gave Daisy her braces. DentistryIQ: How did Daisy and her family hear about S4L?Aimee: At first, Mr. Kimber, Daisy's advocate, visited Dr. Christy Fortney’s orthodontic practice in Escondido, Calif., and talked to her husband, Jeff Ciccarella, about braces, their cost, and how he could find help for Daisy during a time in which her family did not have the financial means to afford them. Dr. Fortney’s dental office is an S4L practice, so they talked to Mr. Kimber about the organization, and in turn, he did an Internet search to find out more about us. At that point, the wheels began turning, and eventually S4L established a chapter in Daisy's area. Mr. Kimber, being a very compassionate professional, helped Daisy’s family reach Smile for a Lifetime by writing a letter of recommendation for Daisy. As an aside, Daisy has expressed an interest in the medical profession, and would like to have a career someday where she helps others.DentistryIQ: Where did Daisy's treatment take place?Aimee: Daisy was treated at Sybron Dental Specialties’ Sybron Learning Center (SLC), located directly adjacent to the Disneyland® Resort Theme Parks in Anaheim. The 15,000-plus square foot facility offers full filming and broadcast capability from a primary surgery suite to an auditorium that accommodates up to 200 participants. The SLC additionally houses a bench laboratory for 50, as well as a fully functional four-chair operatory equipped with 3-D panoramic X-Ray imaging. The SLC is equipped with the latest laboratory and multimedia technologies to allow dental professionals to learn cutting edge best practices.DentistryIQ: How was this place chosen for treatment?Aimee:Ormco works with us not only to provide S4L doctors with the opportunity to treat candidates using their donated brackets, but many times helps locate dentists who would like to be involved in treating our children. No doubt the Sybron Learning Center was chosen as the location for treatment in this instance because it is a state-of-the-art facility and its location was convenient for Daisy and her family.DentistryIQ: Are Daisy's orthodontic needs typical of other S4L patients' needs?Aimee: Yes, Daisy's case — both in terms of care and needs — is common.DentistryIQ: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?Aimee: Our national sponsors, Ormco and TeleVox Software, have been critical to the rapid success and growth of this organization. Because of their generosity and support, Smile for a Lifetime went from being a small organization with four to five chapters to having more than 75 chapters in less than two years. We have hundreds of S4L kids being treated all over the nation, and we are still growing. Also, Smile for a Lifetime has been blessed with incredible leadership. Our first national president, Dr. David Carter, DDS, MSD, of Augusta, Ga., was instrumental in securing our two national sponsorships. Dr. Carter's leadership and compassion cannot be overlooked in light of our success. In 2011, he passed the torch and his vision to Dr. Ron Redmond, whose career in orthodontics spans nearly four decades of professional practice and community outreach. Dr. Redmond is committed to excellence and strives to grow S4L to even greater heights, thereby serving more and more underserved kids. Dr. Redmond and his wife, Margaret, are committed to the mission of S4L and have their heart behind our focus and expansion.Many times people ask me for extraordinary stories, but the truth is ... all my S4L kids are extraordinary. Our selection process where the community leaders choose the kids based on community advocates’ reference letters ensures that we get the perfect candidates. We will see great things from these kids as they grow up! Won't that be amazing?DentistryIQ: Thank you for sharing your heart, Aimee!For more information about Smile for a Lifetime, visit