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West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014 5 years ago

Oakland dentists offer essay contest for free care

by: Zak Kerr Staff Writer/Reporter

OAKLAND — As an end-of-year gift to one deserving area high-school student, the staff at All Aspects Dental will offer comprehensive orthodontic care through retention.

The staff will determine the winner via an essay contest, for which the staff is accepting submissions through Dec. 15, with the announcement of the winner to follow on Dec. 19. Submissions must be 300 words or fewer, include a GPA and demonstrate what makes the student the most deserving candidate for free care.

Among the schools eligible for participation in the contest is West Orange High School.

This is the first installment of the essay contest, which Dr. Charles Pike plans to make an annual event, but the office has hosted other events, he said.

“We do a free dentistry day every year, and from that we did a couple cases this year of smile makeovers,” Pike said. “It’s not orthodontics, but patients that came in for free dentistry needed some more than just that, so we volunteered to take care of that.”

Dr. Kathie Hunter came up with the idea a couple of years ago, and this seemed to be the perfect time to start, Pike said.

Hunter said: “I think a lot of it had to do with being able to give back to the community for our free dentistry day, and we go to the charter schools and we do some things there for them, and it was just to the point where we need to get to those other kids that don’t get the availability to see us.”

The winning student will be a well-rounded student who best shows her or his predicament in an essay, Pike said.

“The main reason is we’re trying to help somebody that’s in high school whose parents probably couldn’t afford to have them have braces,” he said. “That’s why we picked high school, rather than middle school. Most of the time, the kids get it in middle school, so we’re trying to get somebody that’s probably going off to school or something else. We just help them with something they just really want but couldn’t afford.”

The staff will take financial situations into consideration while judging the essays, but economics will not be the only factor.

“There are a lot of kids that, for whatever reason, especially at that age group, are self-conscious about their mouth and appearances,” she said. “Middle school and high school are hard enough as it is. For some, their parents don’t have the same value, as far as their mouth is concerned, as they may have. I think the essay helps put more value on it for us, because it’s not just a matter of, ‘Oh, I just want this,’ it’s like, ‘No, this is why it really means something to me,’ and it comes from their heart.”

For the students who do not win, the essay could provide dental education and be good practice to prepare for other writing in their future, such as further education and scholarship essays, Pike said.

“I think it’s important just to know there are other resources out there and to not give up on that idea of having it taken care of,” Hunter said. “If it didn’t work this time, that doesn’t mean that we’re never going to do this again, and that doesn’t mean that they may not be the next person that can, hopefully, be able to be accommodated and have that goal achieved. I think it’s knowing that there are people out there who really do want to help them and, if not, that we’ll be able to guide them and lead them to another resource to be able to get it done.”

Another important factor is tracking students in need of dental care before they graduate and go elsewhere, Hunter said.

“But that’s not to say they would be eliminated from the essay portion of it, too,” she said. “We just want to make sure they’re taken care of, because for a lot of people it’s extremely important and will make a difference in their lives.”

Hunter said the office also would feature the before and after pictures of the contest winner.

For more information, contact All Aspects Dental at 407-654-9208 or Arlene Broché at [email protected].

Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].

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