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Health Column: Free braces can give some a better smile


Riverhead orthodontist Dr. Victor Grazina knows just how much straight teeth can bolster a child’s self-confidence. 

“Having had a dental accident as a child, I understand how self-conscious a child can be about their smile,” said Dr. Grazina, who co-owns Bach Grazina East End Orthodontics on Osborn Avenue. “Worse, other children can be unkind.”

That’s why Dr. Grazina recently partnered with Smile for a Lifetime to offer free braces each year to six or more children from low-income families in Suffolk County. The national foundation provides scholarships to prospective patients ages 11 to 18. All they have to do is fill out an application and submit an essay explaining why they would like treatment.

“There’s no money involved; this is totally free. All we ask is that the child pay it forward with 10 hours of community service,” said Dina Reilly, a patient advocate at Bach Grazina, which also has an office in East Hampton. She said Dr. Grazina is currently treating one patient through the program and is accepting applications on a rolling basis.

To qualify for free braces, the children’s families must meet certain income level requirements. The child must also have a functional or aesthetic need for braces and demonstrate a positive attitude, according to Bach Grazina’s online application. For more information and to apply, click here.

Of his decision to collaborate with Smile for a Lifetime, Dr. Grazina said he wanted “the selection process to be as objective as possible.” He explained that Bach Grazina’s scholarship recipients are selected by Smile For a Lifetime’s board members.

According to Smile for a Lifetime’s website, s4l.org, the organization has already donated more than $22 million in orthodontic services. And while the average cost of braces varies depends on a patient’s needs, Ms. Reilly said scholarship recipients treated at Bach Grazina typically require between $5,000 and $7,000 of orthodontic work.

Children who receive free braces from Bach Grazina are treated with Damon System braces, which Dr. Grazina called “very advanced.”

“It’s very important for us to be able to provide the same level of treatment for our scholarships without compromising quality,” he continued.

For Dr. Grazina and his patients, having straight teeth is about more than a beautiful smile. Braces give patients a stable bite that minimizes the potential for future dental work and gum disease, he said.

Ultimately, however, the most significant benefit may be the effect braces have on patients’ mental health.

“People feel better about themselves and they smile,” Dr. Grazina said.

Photo Caption: Dr. Victor Grazina, an orthodontist at Bach Grazina East End Orthodontics in Riverhead, examines a patient’s teeth after removing his braces. The practice has partnered with Smile For a Lifetime to offer free braces to local children who otherwise couldn’t afford them. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

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