Last updated: August 23. 2013 1:11PM - 45 Views

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LIMA — Cosmetic dentist Stephen Roush doesn’t just work on teeth. He gives back smiles.

Through an American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry program, Roush donates his time and expertise to repair teeth of domestic violence survivors.

The nationwide program Give Back a Smile offers free dental procedures to women who have damaged teeth from an abusive relationship.

“We’ve seen women who’ve been hit in the mouth with a gun barrel, women who’ve been physically abused,” Roush said.

A member of AACD for about four years, Roush said he got involved in Give Back a Smile almost three years ago.

“I thought it was worthwhile,” he said. “I thought it was a way of giving back.”

Roush said the kind of procedures he performs varies and could include veneers, crowns or bridges. Occasionally specialists or lab technicians are used as well.

“We do any process that’s necessary in order to re-establish a beautiful smile,” Roush said.

The process typically takes six months, Roush said, and the patient undergoes an initial examination before dental procedures. He said the repaired smile gives domestic violence survivors more confidence in social or employment settings.

“Once these areas are corrected, it usually has an immediate result in how they perceive themselves,” Roush said. “It just changes, and you see a transformation many times.”

Roush has treated two women through Give Back a Smile, one from Fremont and the other from Fort Wayne, Ind. While it’s not a large number, he said volunteer doctors treat those assigned by AACD.

Foundation Program Manager Lisa Fitch said the AACD foundation reviews patient applications and connects them with the closest volunteer dentist. The AACD also funds travel expenses and some specialist or lab fees.

To qualify for the program, Fitch said a woman has to be out of the abusive relationship for at least one year, which a social worker or counselor has to verify.

“We want to make sure that the survivor is at a point in their life where they can successfully complete dental treatment,” she said.

Dental injuries must also be to teeth that show when smiling. Fitch said severe neglect or decay doesn’t qualify.

Since Give Back a Smile was established in 1999, Fitch said program volunteers have donated more than $230,000 in dental services. Ohio has completed 31 procedures and has nine current patients in Give Back a Smile.

“The teeth can provide some additional closure,” Fitch said. “There’s a lot that goes into the healing process of surviving a domestic violence relationship.”

Give Back a Smile consists mainly of AACD members, but Fitch said nonmember dentists are welcome to participate as well. To apply as a patient, women can fill out an online application at givebackasmile.com or call 800-773-4227.

Lima dentist restoring smiles
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