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Jason recently reached out to SCL to see if there was some way he could volunteer. When he shared his story about why he wanted to help, we had to share it with you. Here is his story:
My orthodontic story starts in Cut Bank, Montana. This town of 3,000 people near Glacier National Park is where I was born and raised. My father passed away when I was about 2 years old, and so I was raised by a single mother. My mother had a few jobs while I was growing up including waitress, bartender, and housekeeper at the hospital. There were some tough times financially, but knowing that she was working her hardest helped me understand what we could and could not afford.
As I got into high school, the fact that I had crooked teeth bothered me more and more. The nearest orthodontist was 90 miles away and many kids in our school had braces. At the time, I had no idea what the cost of orthodontic work was, but since my mom and I were living paycheck to paycheck on her $9-10/hour, I knew we could not afford this. There would be times when I wished more than anything that I could have braces to straighten my teeth. After high school, I decided to get my bachelors in business management and masters in human resources.
During the first 27 years of my life, I had crooked teeth but learned to deal with it. In my mind I thought, someday I will be able to afford braces, but until then I will take care of my teeth the best I can. They will be clean and well taken care of. I could tell when people were looking at my teeth and although I tried not to let it bother me, it did. There would be times when people would ask me if I had “chew” in my lip because of my bottom teeth being crooked. Since I had a cross bite on one of my top teeth, people would ask if I was missing a tooth in pictures when the lighting wasn’t right. My overall confidence was not as high because of my teeth. There were some nights when my teeth were physically painful because of the pressure the cross bite was causing. I prayed at times that I could just find some way to pay for braces.
Once my education was complete, it was time to enter the “real world”. This meant we had insurance from my wife’s employer since she taught elementary school and from my employer. In April of 2012, at the age of 27, my dream finally came true of having braces. When I spoke with the orthodontist who did my work, I told him the story of how long I have waited to get this work done. He talked about how situations like this is what made him want to get into the business. Many times he complimented me on how well I was taking care of my teeth during the treatment.
When you want something so badly, and are not able to have it, in my situation, orthodontic work, you are religious about following instructions. He mentioned that at times adults are better at taking care of their teeth. I would argue that those who cannot afford braces and look at themselves in the mirror, wishing they could have the financial means to get the desired work done on their teeth, would also take care of their teeth and follow the instructions of the orthodontist. Two years later, I was able to get my braces off. I cannot stop smiling! It is probably annoying how much I look at them, but for 27 years I waited to have my teeth fixed. Now, I do all that I can to take care of them.
My wife and I set goals for how we want to give back to others and one of the important goals we have is to help others get orthodontic work done that need it but are not able to afford it. Since my mother and I struggled financially growing up, and received assistance from government and other organizations, I do know that help is needed. I also understand that handouts cannot just be given without effort on the receiver’s end, since this causes dependence on the benefit instead of enabling them. Smiles Change Lives is an organization that is able to find the right patients who will follow through with treatments, and the instructions of the orthodontist. This is a much needed organization and can help dreams come true!