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Can you imagine what it’s like to be so embarrassed about your teeth that you don’t ever want to smile? I can.

When I was eight years old, I had a life-changing bicycle wreck. It knocked out my permanent front tooth (#8) and required many trips to the ER, dentists and oral surgeons. The dental visits continued over a number of years, but unfortunately, my mother did not have the money to repair my front teeth.

It’s no secret that children can be cruel. So until we were able to finally pay to get my teeth fixed, I was teased a lot. But that life-altering event actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It’s the reason I started my career in dentistry. The kindness of the dental team eased my fears and made a huge impact on my life. I decided I wanted to be able to do the same for others.

I know how awful it is to avoid smiling when you feel embarrassed about broken teeth. The first thing people will see is a big gap where a tooth is supposed to be. That accident destroyed my smile. But for many women all over the country, their smiles are taken away by violence. One group – Give Back a Smile – is changing that.

Since 1999, Give Back a Smile has restored the damaged smiles of more than 1,400 survivors of domestic violence through free dental work provided by dental professionals and donations.

This is a cause I truly believe in. This year DentalPost sponsored a “Go Jump in the Lake” party benefiting Give Back a Smile. It’s a fantastic, fun day at the lake with family, friends and fellow dental professionals, and it is an opportunity to raise funds and awareness for Give Back a Smile. I look forward to it for years to come.

You can get involved, too. Dental professionals constantly give gifts through their work. If you would like to take that to a new level, consider volunteering with Give Back a Smile. Find out more on their website. Or if you would like to make a donation, you can do that online.

It’s traumatic to lose your smile under any circumstances. To lose it through violence is especially devastating. As one woman who got her smile back said, “It is amazing how a smile or lack of smile can change your life so dramatically.” She’s 100 percent right. If you feel called to help in this worthy cause, visit the AACD Give Back a Smile site to learn more.

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