A mother's wish

Tomorrow’s SMILES, a teen program of the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation: America’s Toothfairy, gives a smile and hope to a teen with a broken smile, daily pain, and no self-confidence.

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She knew that a beautiful smile would change everything for her son. A hardworking student and talented artist, Jalen had great potential, but accidents resulting in trauma to his mouth as a child had left him with a broken smile, daily pain, and no self-confidence.

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Jalen's smile before orthodontic treatment

Afraid to speak up in class to ask for help or even try to make friends, Jalen struggled socially and academically. When he did speak, he always covered his mouth, making it hard for others to understand him. Rather than subject himself to ridicule, he remained silent and kept to himself. His mother had tried to get him the critical dental care he needed, but sadly, they could not afford the treatment. Jalen’s mother felt powerless as her son retreated into a shell of silence and pain. Then, the unfortunate loss of his beloved grandmother further shattered his fragile spirit.

Fearing for Jalen’s future, his mother vowed to find a way to help her son. Tragically, before she could realize her dream of seeing her son smile again, she died. Dealing with such a great loss, struggling with his studies, and facing life without support from friends, the little hope he had for a healthy, happy future was lost.

Touched by the dignified way that Jalen continued on in spite of his terrible loss, his art teacher could no longer watch as this gifted teen suffered in silence. She could see that his poor oral health was damaging his self-esteem, 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,” she said.

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). It provides promising, at-risk teens with comprehensive oral health services to prepare them for healthy, successful futures. The art teacher wrote, “Jalen would greatly appreciate the opportunity for a better smile and to fulfill his mother’s wish.”

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 prescreened and ambitious teens. Tomorrow’s SMILES volunteer dentists have access to generously donated products from Invisalign® and Nobel Biocare (including Procera®) to help restore the smiles of these 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 communities.

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Jalen during orthodontic treatment

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

Jalen underwent full orthodontic treatment, thanks to Drs. Jennifer Ludwig and Eugene Simon and their dedicated staff members. Dr. Stephen Shall 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.

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Jalen and Dr. Ludwig

As Jalen’s oral health improved, so did his grades. He no longer avoids eye contact with others, and this Tomorrow’s SMILES teen now smiles easily and confidently. “This has been a rewarding experience for me and others who know Jalen’s story,” said Anne Britt, RDH, of Owens Community College. By donating their time and expertise, these dental professionals helped make a mother’s wish for her son come true, and transformed Jalen’s pain and suffering into hope for a happy, healthy future.

Help change the life of a promising teen in your community by encouraging your practice to participate in Tomorrow’s SMILES. As Tomorrow’s SMILES teens experience the impact of good oral health, they better understand and appreciate the benefits of regular professional care for a lifelong healthy smile. To learn more about Tomorrow’s SMILES, visit www.TomorrowsSMILES.org. Email Brenda Woodington of NCOHF at bwoodington@ncohf.org to sign up and change a life today!

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