Starr Orthodontics to offer free braces to low-income residents in Union County
by Kara Lopp
Starr Orthodontics will soon be bringing more smiles to the area – for free!
The office at 1326 Matthews Township Pkwy. is now one of only three area orthodontists to join Smile for a Lifetime, a Colorado-based national nonprofit that partners with doctors to offer free procedures like braces to people who can’t afford them. Doctors Gary Starr and Steven Dickens recently created their own nonprofit chapter to serve low-income residents in Matthews, Mint Hill and Union County.
The chapter, which will focus on serving patients 21 and younger, includes a volunteer board who will screen and select recipients based on photos of their smile and an online application, available at www.starrortho.com/smile-for-a-lifetime.php. Though the chapter is required to select at least six patients a year to receive free treatment, the doctors hope to at least double that effort.
Members of the volunteer board are: Hazen Blodgett, Matthews town manager and Matthews Rotary Club member; McKinsey Harris, of News 14 Carolina; Pam DeMaria, of the Siskey YMCA; Dr. Jason Sperati, of Pediatric Dentistry of Matthews; Vicky Burger, a guidance counselor at Crestdale Middle School; Susan Bobbitt, office manager at Bank of Granite and a Matthews Rotary member; Langston Wertz, sports writer with the Charlotte Observer; Rachel Eldridge, of Thompson Child & Family Focus; Dean Arp, Union County Board of Education chair; Dr. Ben Sumlin, of Chestnut Family Dentistry; and Anne Marie Radke, principal at Piedmont Middle School.
“We’ve taken on patients (for free) in the past, but this will be a mechanism to identify them in the community and get the care to people who really need it,” Starr said. “When you have a beautiful smile, that’s a real boost to self-esteem and can be life-changing for a child.”
Dickens knows that fact from personal experience. He had a “huge” gap in his front teeth, but growing up his parents never had the money to get him braces. He finally got them, himself, in college.
“There are studies that show people with straight teeth are more likely to secure a job. I know when I closed my big gap I was a lot more confident and smiled more. I think when you feel better about yourself, that empowers you to do more things,” Dickens said. “It’d be nice to give kids in that low-income situation a better chance at a brighter future.”