A million-dollar smile, on a budget

Jul. 06, 2014 @ 04:59 PM

A typical set of braces can cost anywhere from $3,500 to $6,000. And for parents living paycheck to paycheck, the high cost may mean that their children never have the chance to straighten out their smiles.

So two Sanford orthodontists have now started programs reaching out to low-income families, helping their children get braces after all. Dr. Glynda McConville, of Sandhills Orthodontics, and Dr. Brian Smith, of Smith and Smith Orthodontics, have both recently announced that people can apply to get free or reduced-cost braces from their offices.

Both are working with national foundations; McConville’s is called Smiles Change Lives.

“The Smiles Change Lives program is a fantastic way for our practice to give back to the community,” she said in a press release. “We are really excited to share this news and start treating children from our local area.”

McConville is the first provider in the Central Carolina region, and one of just 15 in the entire state, to join the program. The braces aren’t technically free, as there is a small application fee for everyone as well as a $600 fee for children who are accepted. But that’s still the equivalent of getting a set of braces at a sale price of 80 or 90 percent off. For more information or to apply, visit http://www.smileschangelives.org/apply-for-braces.

To contact her office, which has locations at 1129 Carthage St. in Sanford and 35 Plantation Dr., Suite 102, in Cameron, visit www.sandhillsortho.com or call (919) 718-9188.

Smith’s efforts are also the first of their kind in this region, although for a different program, Smile for a Lifetime. To learn more about the program or to apply, visit www.s4l.org.

“The opportunity to interact with and play a positive role in the development of our community’s youth is the primary reason I come to work in the morning with a smile on my face,” he said in a statement on the foundation’s website. “Orthodontics is not just about straightening teeth, it is about building relationships with young people and supporting their growth as individuals, students, and citizens.”

His father and business partner Dr. Lynn Smith, who is also chairman of the Lee County Board of Education, said that goal of developing youth is a two-way street. So to get the set of free braces, he said, children must be willing to volunteer with community service groups as their way of paying for the service.

To contact their office, which is located at 1800 Doctors Drive, visit www.sanfordbraces.com or call (919) 842-3227.

Braces aren’t the only expensive dental work. In 2013, the American Dental Association reported that about half of all low-income Americans hadn’t been to the dentist in at least a year, and one in three knew they had a cavity but either wouldn’t or couldn’t pay to get it treated.

In Lee County, free dental cleanings and check-ups are periodically offered by mobile labs operated by groups like The Baptist Men and St. Joseph of the Pines. The Helping Hand Clinic at 507 N. Steele St. also offers free dental help along with other medical care like vision check-ups, pharmaceutical aid and general health screenings.

Some dental procedures, including braces (if they’re deemed a medical necessity), can also be covered by Medicaid. Braces can also sometimes be covered by insurance or, potentially, deducted from tax returns.