Dentists help man get smile back in time for wedding

Riding his bike back from dropping off a job application at a sandwich shop, Josh noticed a truck pulling out of a parking lot ahead of him. The teenager was soon met head on by this truck, as the driver did not look in his direction when pulling out, he said.

Josh said he was hit by the right, front wheel and was run over. He has had foot problems to go along with poor blood flow and arthritis in his lower back ever since.

Josh, who is now 22, started taking prescription drugs related to the pain from the accident and started smoking cigarettes. This combination, mixed with a lack of visits to the dentist, left his teeth hurting and his front teeth blackened from decay. At one point, his tooth snapped in half from eating jerky, which led to an infection. In addition, employment became a struggle as he worked in customer service.

“One of the things I have had to learn to do over the last few years is to not smile with my mouth because if I do, it is off-putting,” Josh said. “In the customer service industry you don’t want to off-put a customer because that is the whole reason you are there … I had to be conscious of the way I was talking, not just what I was saying.”

The same goes for his personal life. Josh, who says he is now drug- and smoke-free, is engaged to be married this August. His fiancée Rachel was one of the main reasons he decided to take action to get his oral health under control.  

“She’s kind of the whole motivating factor behind me getting my teeth fixed because I didn’t much care before,” he said. “She looked past all that and saw me and she decided she wanted to marry me, but she told me one of the biggest issues she did have was my teeth.”

Josh got his teeth fixed thanks to the generosity of the dentists who treated him before CDA Cares by removing most of the decay as well as at the CDA Cares Sacramento clinic in March, where root canals were provided. During the two-day CDA Cares charity event, dentists and dental professionals provided nearly 14,000 dental procedures, including fillings, extractions, cleanings and oral health education. In addition, dentists worked with volunteer technicians in the clinic’s dental lab area to provide 377 complete and partial dentures and repairs. Since 2012, CDA Cares has provided $11.2 million in dental services to nearly 14,000 patients across California.

Josh’s soon-to-be father in law, Mark Ellenburg, is the district sales manager in the Sacramento area for Brasseler USA, a sponsor of six of the seven CDA Cares events to date. Brasseler, which is headquartered in Savannah, Ga., has been providing dental and medical instrumentation nationally for nearly 40 years. The company supplies rotary handpieces and materials for the endodontic treatment at the CDA Cares clinics. Through his volunteering at the various clinics, Ellenburg has seen many lives changed and is pleased that his daughter’s fiancé is now one of them.

“Josh wouldn’t lift his lips above his teeth when he smiled before, so I am proud that he is actually making the effort, especially if you had seen the amount of work that had to be done … To be able to take the bull by the horns and get the work done so he can have the smile he wants is a big step for him,” Ellenburg said.

All Josh can say is thank you to the volunteer dentists.

“This is going to help me for a long time to make sure I don’t have any problems in my mouth. When you get an infection in your mouth, it literally drains on your body because it makes your whole body work twice as hard. This is just going to help me in every aspect of my life so I have nothing but gratitude for these dentists,” he said.

He is now looking forward to showing off his smile to his fiancée and his family at his wedding, which is expected to have 300 guests.

“My smile wasn’t attractive and it was a hard thing for her to look at all the time and that was difficult for me to hear when I actually did smile because she makes me smile,” he said. “It bothered her and it bothered me because of that so getting it fixed, that feels really good because I don’t have to worry about that anymore, especially with the woman I am in love with, that’s really nice.”

For more information about CDA Cares, visit cdafoundation.org/cdacares.