O'Fallon Progress

Local female doctors come together to provide orthodontic care for children

The Bistate Women’s Orthodontic Network is sponsoring the first bi-state screening event where it will donate more than $400,000 in braces to kids in their communities through Smiles Change Lives, a national nonprofit organization.

Dr. Lauren Hood-Olson, whose practice is in O’Fallon, is among the orthodontists participating. Hood-Olson and the other orthodontists will join together at two office locations to screen children for treatment at their respective practices.

“This is event is the first of its kind across the United States, and is the first time ever that the Smiles Change Lives organization has had this many doctors, and crossing a bi-state area, collaborating to host an event like this,” Hood-Olson said.

One of the open houses will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Hood-Olson’s practice, Olson Orthodontics, 741 W. State St., Suite 2, O’Fallon. Registration is encouraged and is currently open to children whose families are struggling to afford necessary orthodontic treatment.

Along with Hood-Olson, the following female orthodontists are also participating in the event: Dr. Christine Brinley and Dr. Jaclyn Kostelac, Maryville; Dr. Brandy Burgess, Imperial, Missouri; Dr. Mary Ellen Helmkamp, Sunset Hills and Manchester, Missouri; Dr. Jodi Hentscher-Johnson, Columbia and Waterloo; Dr. Sue Hong, Richmond Heights and Hazelwood, Missouri; and Dr. Jaclyn Scroggins, Kirkwood, Missouri.

Hood-Olson explained how BWON originated.

“Several years ago, a few of us doctors got together in hopes to form a network that would be a support system for us doctors who are females/wives/mothers in a male-dominated industry,” she said. “Hence, BWON (sounding it out says, ‘BE ONE’) was created. We have found that by leaning on each other for support and advice not only in our career but also our personal lives, it has helped us to be stronger, happier, and more successful in all aspects of our lives.

“We hope to serve as a model for others in our field or other professions that can feel isolating and difficult to navigate at times. Working together and giving each other strength when needed creates a positive and more fulfilling industry and career.”

On average, according to a press release issued by Smiles Change Lives, braces cost $6,000 per child, making them to costly for many families. Further, the press released stated, orthodontic treatment has long been considered cosmetic by insurance companies, providing little assistance, even for those who are insured.

“We are thrilled to be working with BWON,” said Alexis Barclay, Director of Provider Services, Smiles Change Lives. “To make a difference in a child’s health and self-confidence feels great and is the reason we are so excited about this event.”

To qualify for the program, a child must be between the ages of 7-21, have good oral hygiene, not be wearing braces currently, have a moderate to severe need for braces, meet certain financial guidelines (e.g. for a family of four in the St. Louis area, their household income must be below $61,500) and be willing to pay a $30 application fee and $650 program fee if accepted and placed for treatment with an SCL orthodontist.

Families should preregister for the event at https://www.smileschangelives.org/BWON-screening-event/ where they can find out more information about the locations and qualifications for treatment through Smiles Change Lives.

If a family can’t attend the event but is interested in the program, they are encouraged to contact Smiles Change Lives at info@smileschangelives.org, or to apply directly online at www.smileschangelives.org.

Smiles Change Lives is a national nonprofit formed in 1997 under its original name, the Virginia Brown Community Orthodontic Partnership.