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U of T dentistry alumnae restore smiles for domestic abuse survivors

April 5, 2016
Women who escape violent domestic situations for the safety of shelters have few reasons to smile. But one non-profit started by alumnae of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Dentistry is offering abused women across southern Ontario the prospect of renewed confidence and well-being. The Restoring Smiles Project is a charitable network of dentists and physicians who provide free treatment to survivors of domestic violence. Patients are usually referred by shelters and are handled by the Dr. Borna Meisami Commemorative Foundation on a case-by-case basis. (The Foundation is named in honour of the deceased brother of founder Dr. Tina Meisami. Her brother was an orthopaedic surgeon and graduate of the U of T who died suddenly just months after turning 40.) “As a woman, I felt as though I needed to stand up for their rights,” says Dr. Meisami. “As a human being, I felt their pain. As a surgeon, I wanted to fix their oral and facial pain,” she says. Launched five years ago on International Women’s Day, the project has provided over $200,000 worth of restorative treatment to more than 45 patients, most of whom live in shelters in the GTA. The project’s motto – “Restore a smile. Empower a woman. Reclaim her life.” – speaks to the founders’ desire not only to improve oral function, but to restore self-confidence in women who have survived abuse. “It is truly an honor to treat this group of patients,” says Meisami. In addition to her charitable work as founder and chairwoman of the foundation’s board, Meisami is also the director of Dental Sleep Medicine at the U of T’s Faculty of Dentistry, and operates a private practice in Toronto. In fact, it was Meisami’s U of T connections that helped get the project started. In its formative stages, she invited four friends from the Faculty of Dentistry to launch the project: Shiva Shadmand, Maureen Fenn,Renu Varshney and Yasmin Mawji. When the project began, there were just five volunteer treatment providers in Toronto. The operation has since grown to include 18 providers in private clinics in Toronto, Ottawa and St. Catharines. Patients receive a full scope of dental treatments such as cleanings, fillings, crown and bridge, dental implants, orthodontics, root canals, extractions and surgical facial reconstruction, as well as medical treatments, such as scar revisions. Volunteers focus on eliminating pain and disease and reconstructing the patients’ function in an attempt to improve their health. True to their name, volunteers also focus on rebuilding the patients’ smiles by providing state of the art implant, orthodontic and cosmetic dentistry. The project has not only brought smiles back to its patients, but to its founder as well. “I am deeply touched by their kindness, their gratitude, their grace, and the connections we make with them,” Meisami says. Her patients might say that those same qualities describe the volunteers of Restoring Smiles. http://news.utoronto.ca/u-t-dentistry-alumni-restore-smiles-domestic-abuse-survivors

Project Restoring Smiles on CBC News

April 5, 2016
Watch the CBC’s story on Project Restoring Smiles. Coverage begins at 15:45.

Restoring Smiles: Dentist helps domestic violence victims

April 5, 2016
http://toronto.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=824657&playlistId=1.2809297&binId=1.815892&playlistPageNum=1&binPageNum=1

Project Restoring Smiles on Q13 Fox News

April 5, 2016
Watch Q13 Fox News in Seattle’s coverage on Project Restoring Smiles.
News

A team of female dentists is rebuilding abuse survivors’ smiles

April 5, 2016
Project Restoring Smiles provides free dental treatment to women affected by physical abuse When an Ontario survivor of domestic violence left her abusive partner, he left her with a painful reminder of the violence she experienced at his hands — damaged teeth. “I just didn’t want to open my mouth,” she said. “I was so ashamed of it and I was so sorry,” the woman told CTVNews, asking them to simply identify her as Sam. She needed reconstructive surgery on her teeth, but in Ontario, there are no publicly funded long-term dental services for women like Sam to access. While some medically necessary dental services are available under the Ontario Health Plan if done in a hospital, that’s often not enough for low-income women. That’s where Project Restoring Smiles steps in, a team of female dentists working to fill a service gap for women who have survived abuse. “Our vision is to restore confidence in women who have survived domestic violence by addressing the physical effects of abuse,” explained Dr. Tina Meisami in a statement. “Restoring a woman’s smile has an incredibly powerful impact on her overall physical and mental health.” Project Restoring Smiles provides women with thousands of dollars’ worth of dental treatments — both cosmetic and medically necessary — including orthodontics, crowns and bridges, fillings, dental implants, cleanings, root canals, extractions and surgical facial reconstruction, veneers, bleaching and scar revision. In our appearance-obsessed society, the cosmetic services offered give women a leg up when interviewing for new jobs and starting their lives anew. “It is inspiring to know that something as simple as restoring a smile can help someone’s self-confidence, her relationships, her job prospects — it really improves her life,” said Meisami. Sam recalls breaking down into tears when she found out she could get her dental coverage done for free. Meisami performed two reconstructive dental surgeries on her, which Sam says changed her life. “I’m forever grateful for this,” she said. Unfortunately, Sam’s story is not unique. According to Statistics Canada data, there are nearly 8,000 women and children living in shelters across Canada, many of whom are victims of intimate partner abuse. “The length of our wait list tells us that a lot of survivors in our community need access to dental care,” said Meisami. Project Restoring Smiles has treated 45 patients since launching five years ago, giving abuse survivors around $200,000 worth of free dentistry services. Project Restoring Smiles is currently based in the Toronto area but recently announced plans to expand to St. Catharines and Ottawa. “This growth marks the first step in the Project’s goal to offer services nationwide across Canada,” said Meisami. If you’re interested in helping this charity go national, you can make a donation at its website. Via: http://www.sheknows.com/health-and-wellness/articles/1115313/ontario-dentists-rebuild-abuse-survivors-smiles

Dentist Helps Domestic Violence Survivors Smile Again With Free Services

April 5, 2016
Women who escape abusive situations have very little to smile about. But one dentist is trying to change that. Dr. Tina Meisami, a Toronto-based dentist founded Project Restoring Smiles, a network of dentists that provide free dental treatment to survivors of domestic violence. “As a woman, I felt as though I needed to stand up for their rights,” Meisami told her alumni newspaper, University of Toronto News. “As a human being, I felt their pain. As a surgeon, I wanted to fix their oral and facial pain.” CTV News reports that Meisami started the program in 2011 on International Women’s Day. Five years ago, there were only five dentists involved. Today Meisami has grown her network to 18 dentists (including herself) who have treated 45 patients and provided more than $200,000 worth of free dental work. “We wanted to do something within our own skills to help other women get out of the vicious cycle of abuse, neglect, poverty and their ramifications, such as poor oral and overall health,” Meisami told City News of her network, which includes dentists in other Canadian cities like Ottawa and St. Catharines. The hard work has paid off. One of Meisami’s patients, a woman — who told CTV she wanted to be referred to as Sam — was living in a shelter four years ago. She had escaped an abusive situation and was embarrassed by the state of her teeth — she was even afraid to open her mouth. She broke down in tears when her caseworker introduced her to a dentist at Project Restoring Smiles, who fixed her up and allowed her to have a voice again. Of the experience, Sam told CTV: “[Meisami] has changed my life, saved my life, and I’m forever grateful for this.” Via: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/dentist-does-free-work-for-domestic-violence-victims_us_56e05287e4b0b25c91805078

Testimonials

Dr Meisami, I would love to personally thank you for your wonderful work in the community and for the difficult surgery you successfully completed on me. You are one in a million and I wish you all the support and good fortune in life!

S.L., Dr. Borna Meisami Commemorative Foundation patient

I feel great. I’m even working in my favourite field. I can interact and socialize with other people now, and I am so grateful for that.

R.C., Dr. Borna Meisami Commemorative Foundation patient

I feel like my old self again. I’m just the way I was meant to be.

M.T., Dr. Borna Meisami Commemorative Foundation patient

I know I was always told, “You’re beautiful on the inside.” And I always thought, “Yes I know, but I want to get back to being beautiful on the outside.” Project Restoring Smiles let me do that.

H.M., Dr. Borna Meisami Commemorative Foundation patient

Dr. Meisami changed my life. She saved my life, and I am forever grateful for this.

N.S., Dr. Borna Meisami Commemorative Foundation patient

I would like to thank Dr. Meisami and her team yesterday was an experience that I will never forget. I’ve been kicked, spit on, abused physical and mentally but going to your office for treatment yesterday was amazing. After everything I’ve been through you guys made me feel like a queen.The blanket , no paper bib you even take the time to wash off the patient’s face, wow. I came home and told my kids tears were running down my face. I couldn’t believe that I deserve that royal treatment. Once again thank you so much.

N.S., Dr. Borna Meisami Commemorative Foundation patient

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