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.”