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“Give Back a Smile” Program Restores Dental Health of Violence Victims

June 19, 2007

The Give Back a Smile Program founded by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry uses volunteer cosmetic dentists to restore the damaged teeth of domestic violence victims at no cost. I learned of this program through an article on CNN yesterday that reports that 500 U.S. applicants have now received the program’s services.

Survivors of violence can apply for cosmetic dental assistance by calling 800-773-4227. According to the website, the application process is as follows:

The Life of a GBAS Case:
1. A survivor calls the GBAS, 800-773-4227, for an application.
2. The application is received by the survivor, filled out with the assistance of a domestic violence counselor and returned to GBAS for review.
3. When a dentist agrees to take the case, a letter is sent to the survivor with the volunteer’s contact information listed. It is the survivor’s responsibility to call to set up the consultation.
4. The dentist makes sure that the survivor qualifies according to the guidelines that were sent earlier at the consultation. If not, the case is closed by GBAS.
5. The dentist determines eligibility. If eligible the dentist will develop a treatment plan.
6. If/when lab assistance is needed, the coordinator will give contact information for a lab that will donate the work. The original “GBAS Donated Lab Work” form that is sent with the case needs to be sent to ANY lab that is donating the work.
7. When the case is complete, fill out the final report and send to GBAS and the case is recorded as complete.

Note that a domestic violence counselor or social worker must confirm that the tooth damage was caused by domestic violence, which is “sometimes done through checking police reports or restraining orders.”

Kudos to the AACD for organizing the volunteer dentists and providing these services. Information for volunteers and donors is available online.

A few questions I have about the program:
[Updated with responses from the AACD in italics]
-What qualifies as domestic violence?
Under the GBAS guidelines domestic violence can be physical abuse from a former intimate partner or spouse. We also take into consideration emotional abuse, for example if someone was not allowed to seek dental care.

-Can men receive treatment?
Yes, as long as they meet the eligibility requirements of the program.

-Abused children?
Unfortunately, the GBAS program is only available to adult survivors of domestic abuse. GBAS does not have the resources to expand its services outside these guidelines at this time.

-Can same-sex partners qualify?
Yes, as long as they meet the eligibility requirements of the program.

-Are oral health issues such as cavities and gum disease addressed, or are only cosmetic/tooth replacement issues considered?
The volunteers are asked to at least treat the injured area but they are not limited to that. The program’s guidelines do not include severe decay, neglect or gum disease. The doctor does have the option of treating these issues but they are not required to.

-Is there any screening for oral cancers?
This is up to each individual volunteer GBAS member dentist.

-How long does it typically take from application to receiving services?
The application process can a few months. Depending on the availability of volunteer GBAS member dentists in certain areas or multiple survivors needing assistance in some areas the wait can be longer.

-Are services generally available locally, or are they centered only in big cities? How geographically broad is the program? How far do most applicants have to drive to receive assistance?
There are volunteer GBAS member dentists throughout the United States including rural areas and large cities and in Canada. GBAS does consider distance when matching a domestic violence survivor with a volunteer GBAS member dentist. Reimbursements are made for any travel expenses incurred. Each case is different but generally most survivors do not need to travel long distances.

-What percentage of applicants receive services? Do all applicants with confirmed teeth problems due to domestic violence generally receive assistance?
As long as the eligibility requirements are met survivors of domestic violence generally receive assistance. They do not receive services if they miss appointments, cancel short notice, don’t keep us updated as to their current contact information, or the dentist does not see any evidence of dental injuries as a result of abuse.

Will update if I get answers.
Thanks to Anna Velten of AACD for answering my questions.

35 Comments
  1. Anonymous survivor permalink
    April 21, 2008 1:37 pm

    I am a survivor of domestic violence and I need reconstructive/surgical extractions on my entire mouth because I was not allowed to get dental care when I waswith my abuer and aso as a direct effect intensifying the mental abuse has caused severe anxiety that leads to clenching and grinding which inturn has caused massive detrioration of my teeth and possibly even oral diseases how can I get help?

  2. April 21, 2008 1:46 pm

    There is an application to fill out to be considered by this program, just call 800-773-4227 and they’ll get one to you. Then, as I understand it, they review your application and if accepted they’ll try to find you a volunteer dentist. If that doesn’t work sometimes another option is if there is a dental school near you, sometimes they will have a community clinic with reduced prices.

  3. tracy lynn permalink
    October 31, 2008 10:42 am

    hi, i have a friend that has applied for” give back a smile ” but still hasn’t heard anything back. i was wondering how she can find out if your program received it? we are both in a domestic violence shelter and she is in real need to get this done. she has a wonderful personality and yet doesn’t like to smile because she has missing teeth and she hates the way her teeth look. she won’t even look in a mirror she so embarrassed. all this because a ex-partner hit her and broke out her teeth and broke bones in her face. please get back to me so that as a friend i can help her get back her confidience. i can be contacted at tracyrobinlynn@yahoo.com or my cell is 1-360-980-4170. all for a good woman that wants her life back. sincerely tracy lynn 11-1-08

  4. October 31, 2008 10:50 am

    Tracy, you’ll need to contact the program directly – I’m not part of it, I’m just spreading the word.

  5. February 19, 2009 2:51 pm

    I am the 3rd generation of abused oman. I need help and hope that you can help me. I didn’t know that my abuse was visible because I did a good job hiding it for many years. In my early 20’s I was abusedI am now 47 and it is all unraveling. The dentist saw the apparent damage. The clicking and locking of my jaws and the interruption in my eating had a name it was called TMJ…. Then he said that I needed root canals because the nerves in the front of my mouth was severly damaged. so I have no problems for years until the teeth started to darken and grey. I Saved up aand laid away for Porcalin veneers….That held up until my darken teeth shoed thru and my teeth started to weaken. The dentist then said you have massive bone lost in the front of yor mouth. The thing is I have no more places to hide My teeth are so lose that I have seen my teeth shift. I have no insurance, The sad thing is that I am In the business of making woman beautifl. Who saves the savior. I need help and thought that because you can’t see it and it happen many years ago and I covered it well it went away, It didn’t. I have never allow anyone to ever abuse me again. aPLEASE if you can help or have a reference PLEASE

  6. February 19, 2009 2:58 pm

    I am the 3rd generation of abused woman. I need help and hope that you can help me. I didn’t know that my abuse was visible because I did a good job hiding it for many years. In my early 20’s I was abused I am now 47 and it is all unraveling. The dentist saw the apparent damage. The clicking and locking of my jaws and the interruption in my eating had a name it was called TMJ…. Then he said that I needed root canals because the nerves in the front of my mouth was severly damaged. so I have no problems for years until the teeth started to darken and grey. I Saved up aand laid away for Porcalin veneers….That held up until my darken teeth shoed thru and my teeth started to weaken. The dentist then said you have massive bone lost in the front of yor mouth. The thing is I have no more places to hide My teeth are so lose that I have seen my teeth shift. I have no insurance, The sad thing is that I am In the business of making woman beautifl. Who saves the savior. I need help and thought that because you can’t see it and it happen many years ago and I covered it well it went away, It didn’t. I have never allow anyone to ever abuse me again. aPLEASE if you can help or have a reference PLEASE

  7. February 19, 2009 3:37 pm

    Please do contact the give back a smile program directly about your case. If they can’t help, there may be reduced cost dentistry options in your area-check with any local schools of dentistry, health department. Good luck!

  8. Kimba permalink
    March 19, 2009 8:28 pm

    I was given a new smile through your program and I am so grateful for this gift. My smile is amazing and it has helped restore my self-esteem and self confidence to a point I never thought it would reach! I am so happy today and I thank you again for this amazing gift!!

  9. April 8, 2009 11:40 am

    interested in application

  10. Deborah Boo th permalink
    December 28, 2009 1:48 pm

    I was told I could copy an application off this web site, however I haven’t seen the option to do so anywhere. However; it appears to be a wonderful webside, congradulations!

  11. adine parker permalink
    February 26, 2010 2:50 am

    I lost my two front teeth when my boyfriend punched me in the face. I wore a flipper for almost ten years. i found out about your program when I was at a DV Shelter. I just recently received a 6tooth bridge adn it looks amazing. Thank you Sooooo much!

  12. Renee Cosby permalink
    March 23, 2010 10:23 am

    I was not abused but feel like I was – for the past 7 years my teeth have graduated to a horrible existence and I cannot remember the last time I have smiled – my self-esteem is very low as well as my digestive system – I am always feeling bloated and my body accumlates a lot of air –

    In the past, due to my fear of dentist I would just keep having my teeth pulled, as well as not even going to see a Dentist until the last minute wherein I would lose the tooth – Hence, my look today – 3 teeth in the front and no teeth on the top right side back and bottom left side back – I cannot digest food and have not even eaten a peanut in years (which I love peanuts). If I could have the opportunity to have even just the front of my mouth fixed I would be very grateful and I would repay my blessing forward – – I am currently unemployed due to being laid off (economy cutback) and know that my mouth is a sore mark when I do have an opportunity to go on an interviews – I would be willing to volunteer my time just to be able to smile again – Please consider my case.

    Very truly yours,
    RSC

  13. Lorene permalink
    July 23, 2010 4:25 pm

    ok… you guys say the damage is to bad for you to help me but ive been away from him five years in may and i cant get a job im a waitress and i neeeeeeeeeeed help i need a decent smile for my trained line of work …im desperate …he did this to me and more but i have to live with it for ever or be toothless omg some one please help me he did this because he knew i loved my smile……guess what he hurt me in the biggest way i cant take care of myself and i look horrable i donrt go places i hide my face i dont eat in front of people …im ashamed …and ….discusted to look in a meror …and there is nothing<—— nothing<—i can do ……..Please dear god help me …. I cant take it any more i want to be able to look at myself again …PLEASE

    • July 24, 2010 10:43 am

      Lorene, I’m terribly sorry for your experience. However, this is *not* a website belonging to the Give Back a Smile Program and so is not the best place to pose questions to them, as they are not involved in this site in any way – I just shared information about the program here. You’ll need to contact someone from the program directly. Again, very sorry for your struggles and pain.

  14. karen kohn permalink
    October 4, 2010 6:33 am

    I wanted everyone to know way back after I was beaten by my exhusband and trying to go on with my life for the better for me and my children. I was in therpy this great woman told me about giving a back a smile program, I had no teeth left from the abuise and these dentists did thier magic, and gave me a great smile, now I am in school for social work so I can help other woman just like I was helped. I want to say thank you so much for giveing my smile back

  15. Claire Doubleday permalink
    April 22, 2011 2:05 pm

    I have been struggling with overcoming the trauma, pain and backlash of finally ending a 23 year abusive relationship and I am now in the midst of the court system, which is set up to ensure justice and has only increased the extreme trauma of abuse. I have resolved to invest in the process not the outcome, but some days it just becomes so overwhelming and I feel defeated. As a result of the extreme abuse in the relationship I have lost my smile not only because of the inability to access dental care, but because of the sadness of the pain inflicted upon be by my abusive spouse. I remember the days when my smile could light up a room and I couldn’t stop smiling. I want that back. My daughter is also a 15 year old girl who lost her front tooth in while playing with some friends. She has a beautiful smile, but when I tried to have my ex-husband help me with the funding of her dental needs, he told me to pull out her other two front teeth, because they needed extensive dental work such as root canals, posts and veneers. Here missing front tooth needed to have a bridge put in which cost 3400.00. I was able to bring him into court to force him to pay half of that, but due to financing I have not been able to come up with the additional money to pay for that since I am trying to pay for the two other teeth that need work done to be saved. Due to the fact that I am tied up in probate and family court, District Court for violations of restraining orders and the fact that he severely assaulted my daughter in which she was transported by ambulance and incurred a severe head injury along with muscle injuries, contusions, and a dislocated shoulder. I feel like I am constantly fighting a an uphill battle. My ex-husband was ordered to pay the mortgage on the family home in lieu of child support as I only wanted to offer my daughter the stability of staying in her home. The mortgage was far below the child support guidelines and he still stopped payment on the mortgage having my home foreclosed on and receiving no discipline from the courts. This propelled me into to filing bankruptcy to attempt to keep my home temporarily and he walked away with paying no child support for the time he was supposed to be paying the mortgage. Now I am finding myself not only in District Court, Probate and Family Court, Bankruptcy Court and on the way to Land Court. I have considerable documentation of the abuse, but he is connected to the police (cousin and friend’s on the police force), who have squashed reports, harrassed me and failed to hold him accountable. As a result of all this my daughter and I (mainly myself) (because he needs have to come before mine) have not been able to obtain the appropriate dental care and do not have the financing to obtain it. My mother did some research and was able to find this program and I am hoping that you can help me and my daughter, so that we can both feel confident about our smiles and overtime with the abscence of my abusive ex-husband we will also feel safe, happy, vibrant and full of happiness, so our smiles will shine bright. I hope that my story helps me and others who have been through similar battles, which require hope, perseverence and a sense of faith that life will again be glorious with the help of organizations such as these, but also with God’s grace. God Bless

  16. Tammy Dunn permalink
    May 9, 2011 10:12 am

    I would like some info on your program ,in regards to how I get started ,I have a chipped tooth due to my ex-boyfriend abusing me,you can contact me by email and or phone 913-233-9249.

    • May 10, 2011 6:43 pm

      I just wanted to let you know that I am not part of the program, please go to http://www.aacd.com/index.php?module=cms&page=46 for more info. I hope you will find help and wish you well. If the Give Back a Smile program does not work out for you, you might check on whether there is a dental school in your area – they will often do low cost work.

  17. ERNESTINE WATSON permalink
    May 9, 2011 11:23 pm

    I AM SO GRATEFUL TO KNOW THERE IS SOMEONE WILLING TO HELP ABUSED WOMEN . I AM A TWO TIME SURIVOR . I LOOK FORWARD TO REGAINING MY SMILE BACK.. PLEASE JUST LET ME KNOW WHAT I HAVE TO DO. BY TE GRACE OF GOD I HAVE GOTTEN OUT AND AWAY FROM HIM. . THIS IS WHAT I AM MOST THANKFUL FOR IS MY LIFE AND THIS PROGRAM . THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR LISTENING.

  18. monica permalink
    May 25, 2011 11:46 am

    hi im a victim of a violent crime. i was almost killed in 2007 and suffered alot of daMAGE to my teeth. im missing seven teeth on the top in the front and also lost all self esteem and confidence in myself. i was hospitalized but never press charges. im sure there was a police report due to it happened on the street and i was taken away in an ambulance to the nearby hospital. do i qualify even though i myself never file a report with police?

  19. August 29, 2011 2:52 pm

    I recently learned about this program, I am going to apply,I’ll give more of an report after I receive treatment. This is such a blessing.

  20. Joan permalink
    August 31, 2011 11:45 pm

    I am so happy to see a program like this exists!! I was in an abusive relationship 12years ago at the young age of 18. while I was pregnant with his child my then boyfriend punched me in my mouth so hard he knocked me down a flight of stairs. needless to say i ended up at university hospital getting emergency surgery just to get my mouth closed because the teeth had been knocked out of place so bad it was imbeded in my lip! I am only able to talk about it now because of how GOD has healed me! In order for me to let go, GOD helped me to forgive that man. i have since moved on and met a wonderful man of GOD ,got married and had 2 more beautiful children! All praise to my savior Jesus Christ! I still struggle with some self esteem issues and even hate taking pictures because the teeth in my mouth have started to shift and turn color. I had to get 3 root canals and i had to get metal bonds to keep my teeth from falling out. I do have insurance but i just keep hearing that there is not enough money to cover the extent of damge that has been done. I will be contacting this program for an application first thing in the morning!! and my prayer tonight will be that GOD richly bless all the dentists and staff that aid in making this program a success!!

  21. September 7, 2011 7:46 am

    On behalf of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry Charitable Foundation’s Give Back a Smile program, thank you for posting information about our program. Just to recap current program eligibility; we restore the damged smiles of adult survivors of intimate partner violence who have received dental injuries to the smile-zone only, (teeth that show when you smile) from a former intimate partner or spouse. We also require that applicants be out of an abusive relationship for at least one year which must be verified by a social worker or social service professional. For additional eligibility information and how to apply, visit http://www.givebackasmile.com. For specific questions, you may email Give Back a Smile at givebackasmile@aacd.com

    Thank you,

    Lisa Fitch
    Director, AACD Charitable Foundation

  22. Precious! permalink
    October 16, 2011 5:50 pm

    Hi, my name is precious and i am a child of the adult who is a survivor of domestic violence. I to due to not being able to see a doctor, or dentist during the course of my mom cycles of a harsh severe beatings which was months, days, weeks, and years because Moma, could not get away from this guy. She tried time and time again she even went on the run taking all of us with her and we had to sleep in our car in the park, go to shopping centers and malls to walk all day with no food, money, clean clothes, nor toothbrush, toothpaste, nor mouthwash. I need my teeth worked too and i have no money to fix the damage and I wonder if you can please help me so I don’t lose my teeth! I almost lost my mother to domestice violence abuse and I don’t want to lose my teeth. Please help me? my God, touch someone to help me. I am not selfish, so I ask if you can not help me wil you please consider helping my suffering mother!!! Thank you,

  23. Sharon Shannon permalink
    December 25, 2011 2:24 am

    I have 4 tempts (1 us broken in half) in place of my front top teeth due to physical abuse during my marriage. suffered mental abuse. Also survived brain surgery and was left with a seizure disorder which causes me to grind my teeth. Worked hard to get back to work and did so with little complicationsw for a year. After a week in the hospital for seizures I was dismissed from my job and lost all insurance and cannot afford the implants that would really boost my self esteem. What do I do?

  24. Daisy permalink
    August 1, 2012 3:46 am

    I was in an abusive relationship that lasted for 17 years. The abuse started in small ways, like him telling his friends what a horrible person I was and how much he wanted to leave me and openly cheating. As the years went on, he started talking about how much he wanted me dead, and he would rush me with his fist but stop just short. Then he started slapping me in the face. Quite a lot of my teeth and bridgework broke. I tried to tell my dentist I was being hit but I couldn’t. I always waited until the bruises went down before I called him to report yet another broken tooth. I’m sure he and his wife suspected but I never confirmed it. Little by little I just stopped leaving the house. I was paralyzed with fear. Terrified he would leave me and terrified he wouldn’t. I slept on the couch surrounded by knives and with pepper spray under the pillow. I stopped sleeping at night because he talked about killing me in my sleep and I figured if I slept during the daytime I had a better chance of the neighbors hearing me. In the past couple of years I aged 20 years. It was an impossible situation. Finally, after 17 years, walked out on me in middle of the night. I have spent almost every penny I have trying to keep my apartment. I am looking for a roommate but as soon as anyone sees my teeth I feel the interest waning. My mouth is in terrible pain. I desperately need help. I might be able to get a job of some kind if I had teeth. I used to be very beautiful, now I do not recognize the woman in the mirror. Some days I feel it’s not a question of *if* I will kill myself but when. I just want to make it until my dog dies and then no one will need me. But I really don’t want to die. I obviously need more help than dentistry but dentistry could hep to turn around the terrible downward spiral I am in. There is no legal documentation but all my friends know the truth. I kept a diary and took photos of my bruised face. I documented everything as best I could. Someone told me that survivors of domestic abuse could get dentistry. Well I am a survivor of 17 years of verbal and physical abuse. I feel fortunate he didn’t kill me but in a way, he might as well have. The downward spiral hasn’t really stopped although sometimes I do sleep at night, with all the lights and the tv on. Ladies if you are with a man who is a jerk to you, let me tell you it only gets worse. A “jerk” becomes an abuser, and an abuser can kill you, very easily. Don’t throw your lives away like I did! I needed to get all that out. Thank you for reading.

  25. Marvin Pattillo Jr. permalink
    August 22, 2012 1:09 pm

    Is there any help for men that have been abused.

  26. Dennis LePorte permalink
    December 17, 2012 7:21 pm

    My mother-in-law was a victim of domestic violence/abuse for years. I’m afraid that she is’nt going to be able to save any of her teeth at all. Will this program help/pay for someone who needs dentures ?

  27. Debbie Lozoya permalink
    January 29, 2013 2:38 pm

    Hi, I was Physically and Mentally abused by my abuser for 31/2 years and he knocked out my two front teeth I put him in prison and i myself went in for some help I have not had the chance to get dental work done because i cannot afford the Dental work that needs to be done on my fron teeth i still have low self asteem and having my teeth knocked out n fell out do too lack of money to get my teeth done i feel like it’s a stumbling block for me to move on in my life and feel happier that i have nice teeth and a smile that i can smile at my kids i amd epressed and feel so ugly is there anyway i can recieve help for my fron teeth I trully am a survivor and have put my abuser behind bars he just recently passed away in prison it’s sad but I no longer have to worry about him getting out and trying to find me!!!sincerely Debbie Lozoya my e-mail adress is pryncess7x7@yahoo if anyone can help me it would be such a blessing in disguse you don’t even know how this would better my life for me n my eight children God bless thank you for letting me share God is Good all the time

  28. January 30, 2013 5:49 pm

    All – see Lisa’s comment above. This is not the program site and I am unable to provide any further information. Please visit the links LIsa has provided. I am closing comments on this post.

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