Foundation helps teens repair their smiles

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SALT LAKE CITY -- What does a smile say about you?

For kids with crooked teeth, it often says they're self-conscious.

A group of local orthodontists decided to help change that by putting braces on under-privileged kids. Friends at school told Kayla Gonzalez she should get braces, and with a tight-lipped smile, she told them she would if she could afford it.

“My dad had lost his job and we didn't have money,” said 17-year-old Gonzalez. “We were trying to make house payments, so braces weren't something we were looking into until we found out about the Smile for a Lifetime Foundation.”

The Smile for a Lifetime Foundation puts braces on kids who need them, but who don't have an easy way to pay for it.

“You want to do what your children need,” said a patient’s mother, Marie Chase. “I knew she needed help with her teeth, and I knew it was pretty much impossible at this time.”

But it's more than just financial need. The orthodontists involved, like Dr. John Pobanz, look for kids with crowded teeth or other functional problems.

“When it comes right down to it, the number one way we express our emotion in life is through our face," Pobanz said. “The funnest part of what I do is taking braces off somebody and unveiling that new smile. Just that dazzle and with it the confidence that comes with it.”

Each year, six teens are selected for the treatment, but some years they don't get many applicants.

Dr. Pobanz said he figures that's because people think it can't really be free.

But for the kids who do take part, they said it's changed a lot more than their smile: It's changed their outlook on life.