For two Pueblo women no strangers to difficult life circumstances, it was a Christmas gift like no other.
A pearly white new lease on life.
With a tradition of delivering the gift of one new smile each Christmas, the professionals at Prestige Dental Centers at Pueblo this year bestowed two deserving women, both clients at Health Solutions, with $35,000 worth of dental work the women said has transformed not only their mouths but their very lives.
COURTESY PHOTO/STEVE BIGLEY (Back left to right) Dr. Sterling Rogers, Danny Roybal, and Dr. Michael Bull celebrate the transforming smiles they helped create for (front left to right) Raunita Dickerson and Louise Crespo.
Back in December, Louise Crespo, 41, and Raunita Dickerson, 28, underwent extensive procedures at the hands of Drs. Michael Bull and Sterling Rogers, with ancillary denture work provided by Danny Roybal.
On Thursday, Crespo and Dickerson returned to the Prestige Dental Center to flash their new smiles and take part in a celebratory breakfast reception hosted by Health Solutions.
“We just wanted to thank Prestige Dental for the gift they gave to our clients,” said Dawn Yengich, marketing and public relations manager for Health Solutions. “For these women, who have made it through substance abuse, recovery and domestic violence issues, this is truly a life-changing gift like no other.”
A mother of six, Crespo turned to drugs as a way to mentally escape the horrors of a torturous and abusive relationship. While she was able to free herself from both the relationship and addiction, Crespo remained saddled with a sad remnant of that dreadful period, a mouthful of damaged and crumbling teeth.
The life experience of Dickerson was tragically similar. Health issues and horrific domestic violence episodes that saw her take direct blows to the mouth left her teeth and gums in such severe condition to warrant a full mouth extraction and a start from scratch.
And while the women’s oral obstacles were substantial, Rogers and Bull embraced the opportunity to be not only dentists but life changers.
The work included extractions, bone contouring to clean up infections, implant placement, the fabrication of dentures and finally, brand new smiles.
“This is something they could never afford on their own,” Rogers said. “And we are always looking for ways to reach out to the community. We love the community and wanted to help.”
Added Bull, “We started off just like any other dentist — just doing the job and helping people out. And then we came to realize that we have a very large under served community.
“And over the years, it’s grown to outreach programs and teaming up with other charitable organizations to help those in need.”
Fittingly, the one thing Crespo and Dickerson couldn’t help themselves from doing Thursday was smiling.
“There’s no words, nothing I can say to express the gratitude that I feel,” Crespo said. “The big thing is I have to learn how to smile without putting my hand up over my mouth.
“And I love raw carrots but haven’t been able to eat any in about two years. So I’m definitely looking forward to that.”
Increased confidence, Crespo added, is yet another important byproduct of the cathartic change.
“I know I’ll feel better about going out to apply for a job, to socialize with my friends. It’s (bad teeth) the one thing that people look at and judge you by. But I’m not the person I was 17 years ago.”
For Dickerson, the work she received was not only life-altering but life-saving.
“I’ve been in dire need for the last five years — erosion, impacted wisdom teeth, crowding, you name it,” Dickerson said. “I not only looked like one of the hillbillies you see on TV, my teeth were causing so many health problems that I wasn’t able to function, to eat or even think properly.
“If I didn’t get the dental work done, I’d be dead by now. No joke. Now, I’m more outgoing and sociable. I give temporary shelter at my home, I talk to teenagers to stop them from messing with drugs and if I’m able to produce enough food, I’ll share it with others.”