Smiles Change Lives Orthodontic Organization

Getting braces is often thought to be a purely cosmetic procedure: available only to those who can afford it or for people fortunate enough to have a dental plan that covers the cost of braces. Considering the average cost of orthodontic treatment is about $10,000, it's no wonder programs like Smiles Change Lives to exist.

For many children, braces and orthodontic treatment provide greater self-esteem, improved speech, and pronunciation, the ability to eat and drink comfortably, and healthier teeth and jaws, to name a few. Braces really do provide more than just a pretty smile and they should be available to everyone.

Smiles Change Lives is a leading orthodontic organization that has a dedicated team of staff members, volunteers, and more than 700 orthodontists across the United States who help low-income families afford orthodontic treatment.

Boy with braces smiling outside
MoMo Productions / Getty Images

About Smiles Change Lives

The organization provides care to children whose families cannot afford the cost of braces or other orthodontic treatment. Since its inception in 1997, Smiles Change Lives has helped more than 7,000 children across the country.

Founder Virginia Brown grew up during the Great Depression. She and her sister both needed braces, but their parents could only afford one set of braces for one child. Brown later got braces during high school, but by then she had developed low self-esteem because of her crooked teeth. She decided that one day she'd help children in similar situations.

Brown and her late husband, Maurice, ran an organization that helped afford surgeries to children with cleft lips and palates for many years, but after he died, she started looking for more ways to help. When she and her son discovered there was no program in the United States that helped children afford orthodontic treatment, she founded the Virginia Brown Community Orthodontic Partnership, now known as Smiles Change Lives.

How the Program Works

Smiles Change Lives helps low-income families afford braces at a lower cost. In order to receive treatment, the applicant must complete the application process and pay a non-refundable application fee. There are also some specific eligibility requirements:

  • Applicants must be between 10-18 years of age
  • Have no more than four baby teeth
  • Have good dental hygiene habits
  • Have no unfilled cavities
  • Not be wearing braces
  • Meet the financial eligibility guidelines
  • Be able to pay the $600 investment

How You Can Help

There are a few ways to help Smiles Change Lives. If you live in the Kansas City, Mo. area, where Smiles Change Lives is based, become a volunteer or participate in an internship. If you aren't in the area, you can always make a much-appreciated, tax-deductible donation.

Smiles Change Lives is always looking for orthodontists to further this worthy cause. If you're an orthodontist, join the network of more than 700 orthodontic providers across the country who are changing lives every day. Oral health professionals can also refer a child to the program.

By Shawn Watson
Shawn Watson is an orthodontic dental assistant and writer with over 10 years of experience working in the field of dentistry.