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Putting a smile (back) on your face
What is a smile worth?
The man asking the question has a very pleasant smile himself. He also seems to be the kind of person who smiles a lot. Perhaps not broadly, certainly not a showbiz smile or the smile of a peddler.
What is a smile worth? he asks the audience again, rhetorically.
The audience understands that the man doesnt want the answer to the question because he is controlling a PowerPoint slide show that pictures women and some men with what can only be called horrible smiles gaps, decay, chips and missing teeth predominate.
The man is Dr. Kelly Peterson, a Marysville dentist who is one of 200 dentists in Washington and 8,000 across the country, who donate time and work to a program called Give Back A Smile, part of the National Campaign Against domestic Violence sponsored by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.
Peterson is reciting a litany of domestic violence statistics like four out of 10 women treated in emergency rooms nationally are there because of a domestic violence related incident and Washington had 51,000 domestic violence calls in 2000, in 2001 6,727 women were in shelters as a result of domestic violence here and in 2000, three women were murdered nationally every day again, related to domestic violence.
Of 588,490 women assaulted, more than half were pregnant, Peterson tells the sober audience, consisting mostly of men. And by the way, he adds, not all domestic violence victims are women. But women sustain much more damage from the beatings they receive and that damage often means a pleasant smile is a thing of the past.
Peterson is talking specifically about the physical damage sustained, which he helps heal, but there is also emotional damage. Fixing the physical damage helps to fix the emotional damage, he said. Restore a smile, restore a life.
That last phrase is an adopted motto of Give Back A Smile. Dr. Peterson told the group over 400 applicants had asked for help and over $4 million of donated services have been made by participating dentists, who provide their services, time and supplies.
Other people help as well because restoring a smile can mean root canals and oral surgeons whose services are not covered under the Give Back A Smile program. A patients traveling costs for the often extensive work necessary can also be donated. Peterson sponsors what he calls A Day of Whitening, a $225 treatment for tooth whitening where the proceeds go directly to the Give Back A smile effort.
Snohomish County has not escaped the ravages of domestic violence. Over a 10-year period 10 homicides have been committed with a direct link to domestic violence. Some estimates, he said, put the figure as high as one in four women nationally and locally, have experienced some form of domestic violence.