MASON CITY, Iowa - $30,000: that's how much it could cost for some to get the perfect smile. But for one woman, she's getting her smile back for free as part of a new program.
Megan Rikala is receiving a full arch restoration procedure at no charge through the North Iowa Oral Surgery & Dental Implant Center's "Second Chance" program. The procedure consists of using surgically impanted dental implants to replace an entire arch of missing teeth. The program was launched after the center found that there is a significant need in the area for oral surgery to restore missing or deteriorating teeth with permanent and healthy tooth replacements.
Rikala applied for the program, which was first announced in September.
"Nobody knows anybody's story, you don't know what people are going through or where they come from, so for them to look into people's backgrounds and choose someone, it's a big relief for people like me."
Suffering through childhood trauma, she turned to alcohol, anorexia and bulumia, as she felt it was the only way she could have control over her situation. However, this affected her teeth, and after interviews with surgeons and a full exam, she was announced as the recipient on Wednesday. It was a relief to her, as a full makeover is not cheap.
"Most people don't have that kind of money. And for me, I didn't have dental insurance, so there was no way I could've done it without them."
And she's not alone in needing dental work done.
Renae Kruckenberg is the CEO of the recently opened Community Health Center of Mason City, which provides dental care, among other services, to those who may not have affordable access. Within their first month alone, the clinic has seen over 400 patients for much needed dental work, including one man who needed a knee replacement, but couldn't get one until an infection in his mouth was removed.
"We were able take them, bring them in. They were on a state insurance program, so they couldn't go to other places without having about $2,000 of out of pocket money, and so we were able to provide those extractions to that patient under their state insurance so that they could then get their knee replacement."
With the announcement, Rikala says that the procedure will help change her life.
"I believe in paying it forward, so I'm hoping once I feel better about my smile, I will be able to emulate that with everyone and just make everyone else's day too."
She hopes that the program can continue into subsequent years, and has a message for future recipients.
"I encourage everyone to apply. It's amazing and phenomenal. I hope the next person who wins is as grateful as I am."
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