SAN ANTONIO — Over the past year, San Antonians citywide grappled with extreme financial challenges. But one dentist office decided to make life easier for a few of their patients by giving them a mouth makeover.
Advanced Smile Care of North San Antonio traditionally hosts an annual dentistry event called "Dentistry From The Heart." They've been hosting the event for 15 years, giving away roughly $100,000 in free dental care every year of the event.
COVID-19 halted the initiative in 2020, but the dental practice still wanted to pay it forward to patients during the crisis needing a financial hand up. So it gave them what it calls "The Gift of Dentistry.”
"My teeth might look like they're together, but I actually have a lot of missing teeth," said Crystal Ennis, a patient at Advanced Smile Care. "I don't have any back teeth. All of my chewing is done in the front part of my mouth, and I just used drugs for a really long time. Smoking meth really took a toll on them.”
But when they told her they'd be gifting her over $15,000 in dental work, including dentures, her life was changed forever.
"I was immediately touched. It was like an explosion," she said. "I went inward and then went outward with all, like it made me cry. I was just brought to tears."
"It's nice to be able to give something away and give some of your time," added Dr. Laura Benjamin. "Kind of like doing a mission trip. You just go, give your time, bring materials, and we have the ability to do that for patients, too."
"This is the least we could do to help families during the pandemic," added Dr. Tony Thomas, lead dentist at Advanced Smile Care. "This initiative comes straight from the heart and it is representative of our DNA at Advanced Smile Care. We're all about making patients happy and ensuring they have healthy smiles.”
Another patient chosen for the Gift of Dentistry was Vincent Montez, a two-time cancer survivor, whose wife also had cancer.
"Pretty much these past few years my life has kind of revolved around cancer, pain, all these nonstop bills," Montez said.
But thanks to Advanced Smile Care, not one cent of his bill of nearly $10,000 for a bright white smile, will ever have to be paid back.
“They (The dental assistants) go sit in that chair, and everybody comes walking in. And it gives me this unbelievable gift, which...I was pretty much a person with a lot of words, but I was just speechless," he said. "This is already paid in full by the generous people here at Advanced Smile Care, and it's one less bill that they don't have to worry about."
"When you change someone's smile, it makes a huge impact in their life," Dental Assistant Brittney Dobbs said. "So that small little difference that you're doing for someone makes a huge impact and a huge impact in the world."
The Advanced Smile Care team says its initiative is going to continue. They say they intend to offer the Gift of Dentistry to at least one more patient.