As proud members of the Old Town Community, we have been blessed by the support of our neighbors for over thirty years. To show our solidarity and appreciation, Old Town Smiles performs pro bono dental work for four to six community members every year.
Most dental issues, if untreated, can greatly impact a person’s quality of life. The pain and price of fixing these issues can easily become overwhelming, creating a sense of hopelessness. We strive to re-energize all facets of life by giving our community members what many of us take for granted: a beautiful, healthy smile!
In the past, we chose our dental makeover candidates based on the nominations our local organizations and Old Town Smiles staff and patients brought to us. In May of 2017, we teamed up with a handful of other local Alexandria businesses to offer a Mother’s Day Makeover to a deserving mother in our community.
In addition to comprehensive dental work, the winner of the Mother’s Day contest was offered a beautiful flower arrangement from the Enchanted Florist, a massage from Alexandria Myotherapy, dinner at Landini Brothers Restaurant, and a hair and makeup makeover from Windsor of Old Town Salon and Spa, and A.W. Davis Photography offered to document the occasion.
Across the board, we were blown away by the story of one local Alexandria mother: Dorothy “DJ” Rockow. The mother of two had been fighting Multiple Sclerosis for over six years. Her treatment consisted of low dose chemotherapy and high dose steroids, resulting in profound xerostomia (also known as dry mouth or hyposalivation). Hyposalivation is a condition where the salivary glands do not produce sufficient saliva, which unfortunately can contribute to rapid tooth deterioration. Her health was also compromised by migraines, depression, bowel issues, and vitamin B and D deficiencies. DJ did her best to live with these conditions on a daily basis, all the while caring for her two children.
Dr. Ahmed strives to spread awareness about the important relationship between our oral health and our overall physical health. This relationship is apparent among Dr. Ahmed’s many patients with autoimmune diseases, including Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Patients who have autoimmune diseases are more likely to experience issues like dental decay, periodontal disease, candidiasis (a fungal infection, also known as “thrush), xerostomia, mouth ulcers, angular cheilitis (cracked corners of the mouth), and have a higher likelihood of developing vitamin deficiencies. This list encompasses some, but not all of the oral manifestations that typically accompany autoimmune diseases.
In DJ’s case, her deteriorating oral condition directly affected the stability of her autoimmune disease, often exacerbating and counteracting her body’s fight with MS. Without time or money to address what often became chronic oral infections, DJ was unable to maintain healthy nutrition levels or prevent recurring, daily struggles with pain and discomfort.
DJ’s daughter Emi nominated her mother for the Old Town Mother’s Day Makeover because “no matter how bad she feels or how much she’s hurting,” Emi said, her Mom “never fails to put everyone else before herself.”
DJ was announced the winner of the Old Town Alexandria Mother’s Day Makeover in May of 2017. During her consultation at Old Town Smiles, Dr. Ahmed discussed what steps would best restore DJ’s healthy, ideal dental function. The current state of her teeth made eating and even speaking unpleasant for her. We worked together with DJ to create a treatment plan that would completely restore her comfortable dental function. After assessing DJ’s case, DJ’s surgery date was set for September 28, 2017.
The first step of DJ’s surgery focused on the removal of her existing 18 teeth, which were decayed and infected. Several bony abscesses were debrided to address extreme infection. DJ’s upper and lower jaw bones were next surgically reshaped (what is known as alveoloplasty) in order to achieve better functional and aesthetic outcomes for her prosthetic teeth. DJ received same-day upper and lower teeth after her surgery. As she continued to heal, DJ returned to our office for regular follow-ups and re-fittings to guarantee her teeth were at their best and most comfortable function. We also gave DJ oral health counseling and continued support to help her balance her nutrition and maintain the health of her teeth for the years to come.
In addition to her dental makeover, DJ enjoyed flowers, a massage, a hair and makeup makeover, and a dinner for two at Landini Brothers Restaurant. A.W. Davis Photography did a wonderful job capturing DJ’s beautiful new look and smile. The pictures in this article show how her dental work has made a major difference in not only her appearance, but also her happiness and comfort within her own body.
In addition to giving her the confidence to re-engage with society, DJ’s dental makeover restored her physical comfort and function. Without the recurrent infections and pain related to her tooth decay, DJ has been able to improve her overall health and achieve a better quality of life with her MS. The results of DJ’s dental makeover show that our dental health has far more than cosmetic benefits: it makes a major difference in our ability to stay healthy and participate in the demands of daily life. Now, when DJ smiles, we smile too!
The total cost of DJ’s procedure, from the initial intake exam, to the diagnostic x-rays, impressions, etc., to her surgery, prosthetic teeth, and subsequent adjustments, would have been just over $20,000. For individuals like DJ, the value of restoring healthy dental function is immeasurable. Oral health truly makes a major difference in our health and happiness, especially when our body is facing compromising health issues. We strive to make these life-altering dental procedures available and affordable whenever possible.
Our practice serves patients with the philosophy that “you have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you,” (John Bunyan, Writer & Preacher, The Pilgrim’s Progress). We average four to six pro bono cases per year, which we receive through a variety of nomination avenues. We are proud corporate sponsors of Dress for Success. With Dress for Success, we provide dental makeovers to deserving women.
Some of the individuals who have received pro bono dental makeovers from Dr. Ahmed in the last two years include a woman recently released from prison on a non-violent misdemeanor living in a halfway house, a handyman/artist at Alexandria Thrift Shop, a cook at one of the local restaurants, an employee at Harris Teeters, and a former flight attendant.
At Old Town Smiles, we strive to serve the members of our community who might not otherwise be able to overcome their oral health issues, so that they can enjoy the quality of life they deserve. We continue to work to spread awareness about the oral manifestations of systemic disease, and how proper dental care makes a major difference in our fight against infection and illness. Good dental health really does make all the difference!
We are grateful for the support we have received from Old Town Alexandria over the years. If you know someone in the Alexandria community who is worthy of a dental makeover, and all the benefits to their health and happiness that come with it, reach out to our office to make your nomination today. We are eager to give back and do whatever we can to make our neighbors smile!
More information about DJ, Old Town Alexandria’s Mother’s Day Makeover, and Old Town Smiles’ involvement in Alexandria can be found below.