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US Dentists Help Victims of Domestic Violence Smile Again

Give Back a Smile does seem to be working wonders for victims of violence in US. Founded in 1999 by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, the nonprofit group is putting domestic violence survivors in touch with dentists who volunteer their services.

To date, 500 applicants have been treated in the United States. They are carefully screened and a counselor or social worker must confirm that the injuries were caused by domestic violence. That's sometimes done through checking police reports or restraining orders. Many have benefited, like Susan Kauffman. Not only does she have a perfect set of teeth, but after enduring physical abuse repeatedly in her life, she also has renewed self-esteem. "I had a broken spirit," Kauffman said. "I became very isolated ... and became a recluse."

Kauffman, 62, grew up poor. She said she didn't own a toothbrush until she was 10. Abuse in the intervening years made the problems with her teeth much worse, she said. Unable to afford dental care, she learned to hide broken teeth and gum disease. "I was an expert," Kauffman said. "I could talk, I could laugh, I could eat and chew and you wouldn't know I had bad teeth."

Life changed dramatically for Kauffman about a year and a half ago when she learned about Give Back a Smile. "These individuals really need somebody to take care of their oral health and give them a boost of energy and self-confidence. I wanted to help," said Dr. Sam Sadati, of Wellington, Florida, the dentist who performed the work on Kauffman. He's one of more than 800 dental professionals around the country who've taken part in the program.

Kauffman was very timid and nervous during her first appointment, Sadati said. "She was abused and hit many times and she had many different dental problems that we had to take care of," he said. "She had multiple teeth that couldn't be saved and those that she had...needed a root canal, crowns or a bridge. Her bite was coll
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