When the victims of domestic abuse finally muster the courage to leave their abusers and rebuild their lives, their scars and battered faces are not only a constant reminder of the abuse they endured, but also a hindrance to getting a job and regaining their self esteem. They are ready to face the world, but what face do they have?
Dr. Dina Giesler is a cosmetic dentist and former victim of abuse. She is all too familiar with the pain of domestic violence. So, when she learned of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry’s (AACD) Give Back a Smile Program, offering free dental work and facial reconstruction to the victims of domestic abuse, she felt compelled to join and help as much and as often as she could.
“I’ve been a member of the AACD for 15 years,” Dr. Giesler says. “And I realized what an incredible thing they have going with the Give Back a Smile Program. When I worked in Houston, I saw abused children supported by Medicaid receiving free care until they were 21, but Mom would come in without a front tooth. That destroys her dignity—no one was taking care of Mom.”
After working with the Give Back a Smile Program for several years, Dr. Giesler decided to start her own similar program in the Atlanta area, allowing her to help more victims and organize a foundation that could serve as a model for local chapters nationwide. Thus began the Atlanta Smiles Foundation, along with USASmiles, the national program that serves as an umbrella for local programs like Atlanta Smiles.
“The Give Back a Smile Program is offered only to the members of the AACD,” Dr. Giesler says. “Well, that’s only, like, 6 percent of dentists. USASmiles can be everybody else. My goal is to have every dentist in America doing one case a year. Can you imagine?”
Working with local shelters to find victims who have left their abusers more than 1 year ago and have received counseling for their abuse, Dr. Giesler currently helps approximately four victims a week, averaging more than 350 appointments every year.
While Dr. Giesler and the local dentists involved with the Atlanta Smiles Foundation work on the victim’s teeth, cosmetic surgeons are needed to help with facial reconstruction. So, the Atlanta Smiles Foundation has joined forces with the Partnership Against Domestic Violence’s FACE TO FACE program, which recruits cosmetic surgeons to volunteer their services of facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, erasing the scars, burns and evidence of abuse on the victims’ faces.
This October, Dr. Giesler plans to host a reception honoring domestic violence awareness month. Learn more about Dr. Giesler, the foundation and its fundraising events at www.atlantasmiles.org.
The Atlanta Smiles Foundation Needs You!
- Local dentists and specialists who are willing to donate their time and expertise to restoring the smiles of the foundation’s recipients
- Dental laboratories who are dedicated to donating their time and talents to restoring the smiles of the foundation’s recipients
- Dental companies and suppliers who can donate materials
- Private financial donors who are dedicated to the cause and willing to sponsor a survivor
- Corporate sponsors who are dedicated to providing direct support and eliminating domestic violence