The Associated Press
STRONGSVILLE, Ohio - Dr. Richard Weiser has revamped hundreds of smiles over his 17-year dental career.
But few of his cases have been like Darlene Martin, Weiser's first patient through a program that matches domestic violence victims with dentists who volunteer to repair damage caused in abusive relationships.
Although 850 dentists and lab technicians have offered their services in Ohio and other states, many have yet to get an assignment.
Since its beginning in 1999, the Give Back A Smile program has helped about 250 patients nationwide and is working with 177 more. If the applicants were paying customers, by now they would have spent more than $1.3 million, according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, which established the service. The academy works with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence to carry out the program.
The young organization relies on dental volunteers to help get the word out.
"We don't have a lot of money that we can use to promote the program," said Kristin Klinkneri, a spokeswoman for the Madison, Wis.-based academy.
In Ohio, 25 dentists volunteer, Klinkneri said.
Weiser treated Martin for gum disease and created overdentures, implants anchored to the bone to replace her bottom teeth.
The service, provided at no cost to Martin, would normally cost $4,000 to $5,000.
After building relationships with patients, it's rewarding to see them become more comfortable with themselves and the staff, said Cindi Coleman, Weiser's dental assistant.
Victims interested in applying can get information at the program's Web site or by calling (800)-773-4227.
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