VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A smile might be one of the first things you notice about someone, but most people who have needed major dental work will tell you they don’t always want to share that smile.
A local real estate agent is working to change that.
Sheena Johnson has always hid her smile, feeling embarrassed and judged.
“I had cracked my teeth when I was younger and I’ve had cracked teeth ever since,” she said. “People are like ‘oh well I don’t really want to hang out with you because of the way you’re looking.’ Okay, but you don’t know me for me. You see what you want to see, not the person inside that doesn’t exactly like the way my teeth look.”
A few months ago, she met Christian Phillips through their shared interest in saltwater fish tanks.
That’s when everything changed.
“He goes, ‘Oh by the way, I want to get your mouth fixed,'” said Johnson. “First, I thought it was a joke. Then I continued to talk to him about it.”
It was an idea Phillips had been working on for about eight years — after he needed some dental work of his own.
“I immediately developed new behaviors, I immediately started trying to cover my mouth when I smiled,” said Phillips. “I immediately started to smile with my lips closed and I immediately lost self confidence. It was amazing how one little change like that, that didn’t change anything about who I was at all, had such a drastic impact on my personality and my daily life.”
It wasn’t just his personal experience. As a realtor, he’s constantly meeting new people, some who need dental work.
Phillips said, “When you need dental work on your smile line, your social mobility is frozen.”
That work is expensive.
“So I figured if we could come up with a way to help these people and free up their social mobility by giving them just a hand through this, a hand out of this stuck spot, that they would then be able to go on with the rest of their lives with renewed energy and renewed confidence and go out and succeed in life where they were once stuck,” Phillips said.
That’s when he met Dr. Ron Kondoff, who agreed to help.
“This is about feeling good about yourself and if you feel good about yourself, you can reach your own potential,” Kondoff said. “Today is the 5% of the 100% but it’s the most important. We had removed some teeth, we’ve filled some other teeth, we left six teeth, four teeth, excuse me, as anchors and replaced six.”
10 On Your Side was there as Kondoff gave Johnson her new teeth. Her excitement was contagious.
“I never smiled before, like hardly ever, and now I can’t stop smiling,” Johnson said. One week after getting her new teeth, she was offered a promotion at work.
The cost of all of that work is close to $8,000. Kondoff is doing it for roughly half of that, with that money coming from donations.
“We get one opportunity at life. We get one period of time here and we can leave the world a better place or we can leave the world a worse place and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure the world is as good of a place as I can possibly leave it,” said Phillips.
Smile Helpers already have two other patients lined up and the funding for most of the work they need. If you’d like to help out and donate, you can visit their GoFundMe.