Missouri children win their way to a perfect smile
A Missouri orthodontics facility has given away free braces in a contest open to local families. The facility Orthocare Systems Orthodontics has offices in South County, North County and St Peters.
The contest was held in fall of 2008, and winners were announced in January 2009. All children had to do to win a set of smile-inducing braces was to send in their picture, as well as a hundred word essay explaining just what a beautiful smile would do for them. More than 1000 children entered the contest. The panel of judges included the owners of Orthocare Systems Orthodontics, dentists and oral surgeons, a child psychologist as well as a PR firm that handled promotions of the contest.
The judges had a hard time choosing just 10 winners out of all the entries. Many of the children who participated were not surprisingly, those whose parents could not afford the cost of dental braces for them. Other children had personal reasons for wanting the braces that were equally heart wrenching. One contestant needed orthodontic treatment to repair damage sustained during a gunshot wound. Others spoke of loss of family members, including parents and siblings. One contestant needed braces because she thought it would help her mother emerge from a coma, while another could not afford braces because his father had recently lost his job. The saddest stories came from foster children who wrote in to say that they needed braces because it could give them a bigger shot at being adopted.
One of the contest winners John Maucher wrote in to say that his canines resembled the fangs of a vampire, and that he got teased a lot as a result in school. He had 2 sisters who suffered from Downs’s syndrome, and he spent a lot of time with awareness programs in his school district to raise awareness among other children about special needs kids. As he mentioned in his essay, he could educate people about his siblings’ Downs Syndrome, but found it hard to stop the teasing about his smile.
Other winners included a young girl who had been adopted from China. She had had surgery to repair a cleft lip and palate. By the time she was 10, her permanent teeth were haphazardly arranged, making it difficult to talk, as well as chew her food. Speech therapy had helped to improve her speech a little, but her teeth continue to drag her efforts down. Fourteen years old now, she wanted braces but her family, she said in her essay, could not afford them.
The judges in the panel all admitted that they wished they could grant the free braces to many more winners. It was heart wrenching to have to refuse braces to deserving kids who really needed them, they say.
Some media reports have confirmed that the ongoing financial meltdown has affected people’s priorities for dental treatment for their children, and that more people are putting off essential orthodontic treatment for their children to a later date. This means that more parents and children are looking at cheaper ways of accessing dental braces, like discounts and contests.