Project Smile Inspiration. This project began when Michelle B. processed her pain by responding to the Wonder Anew questions. She said she felt like a monster on one of those kids shows where there are characters created with horrible teeth to make them scarier. "I felt like a silent monster afraid to talk, smile, and laugh." With diligence and the help of others, she was able to get her teeth fixed - which changed everything.

Michelle 3-1

After fixing her teeth, we talked. Michelle B. laughed as she said,

"Susan, I smile at everyone I pass. I'm not hiding. I see me instead of my broken teeth. I know how expensive it is to fix teeth. I wish others could have the smile I have now."

Well, her wish came true.

I was inspired by the transformation of Michelle B. as a silent monster to feeling loved, seen and heard—and decided to partner with her and my friends Michelle Moore and Marianne Richmond to help others.

Until recently, I hadn't realized how many people there are who suffer from extensive dental damage. I did not know that dental disease is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, pneumonia, poor pregnancy outcomes, and dementia or that without proper dental care, people often pass these physical challenges to their children.

In the magical and mysterious ways that caring action unfolds, I read this articleone in a series written by journalist Maggie Clark about a young mom who lives in my town. That mom is Megan, and she's pictured here with her daughter.

Keriana Carll, 4, and Megan Johnson pose in their yard in Bradenton. Johnson searched for months to find a dentist who was willing to accept Keriana's Medicaid insurance.   STAFF PHOTO / RACHEL S. O'HARA

Photo: Rachel S. O'Hara, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

I was troubled by this mom's struggle to find someone who would treat her daughter and curious about whether she found help for her own dental disease. I wanted to meet her. Through Maggie, I contacted and met Megan. This is what happened.

“Are you Megan?”

FullSizeRender-18

She nods and says, “Yes, ma'am.”

Megan scoops the baby out of the cart and tells me that her two daughters are with their grandma. “I’m babysitting this little joy-basket for my friend while she packs up her house. It’s too hot in there for the baby." The baby smiles and snuggles into Megan's hug.

We chat about Megan’s life and exchange stories about her kids and my grandkids. She talks about the literal pain of her toothaches. "I can't even play with the kids. My face swells up and closes my eye." I ask what she does for the pain. "I just get through it."

Megan talks about how she makes sure her girls brush their teeth, but says that it often hurts too much to brush her own teeth.

I ask, “Do you want to fix your teeth?”

“I can’t afford to,” she says. “I’ve had bad teeth for so long. Some people think I have meth mouth, but I don’t. My mom had bad teeth. Now I have bad teeth, and my daughter has bad teeth.

Then I ask, “What if we can find dental care for you?” Her eyes light up with an energy that bounces the baby up and down. "Yes, ma'am. I'm scared, but I want to."

I’ll help you find help.

We found help at Turning Points*. I know that Turning Points has a holistic and integrated approach to treating people with the least resources. I heard the story of the founding of Turning Points by the executive director, Adell Erozer, and toured the dental and medical center met two full-time dentists, and learned that other dentists and doctors volunteer services.

UPDATE

Turning Points used Project Smile's donations to provide Megan (and others) with dental services. This is Megan before, and in the dentist chair after she received her new smile.

Though Project Smile ended, the need continues. This Donate Button takes you directly to Turning Points. Give what you can. Curious about the potential of your gift? THIS might surprise you. It did me.

Development director Margi Dawson keeps me supplied with TP brochures. I call myself a Smile Ambassador. You can be one, too, by sharing this page

PROJECT CREATORS

Susan Michael Barrett, Michelle B., Michelle MooreMarianne Richmond

PROJECT HELPERS
Terry Barrett,; Sheril Burkhart; Margi Dawson and Adell Erozer, Turning Points; Rich Fidler, CPA, LLP; Shaun Hoyle,; Liv Lane; Lisa McKean; Cindy Pitt; Michael Nelson; Alice RisembergMegan Swisher; Tracie Wells, LPC

TURNING POINTS, a silver star charity, is a unique model of comprehensive and integrated support services under one roof.*

Turning Points, serving the homeless and near homeless, can now quantify its value to the community. South Florida’s Muma College of Business study finds the organization worth more than $43 million to the county. Turning Points spares Manatee $22 million—saved in taxpayer money from medical treatment at the homeless center instead of hospital emergency rooms [where only the symptoms of dental disease are treated, usually with pain meds and antibiotics] and inpatient hospitalization... (Bradenton Herald).