If the eyes are the window to the soul, then a smile is the front door. But for one 23-year-old Hillsboro woman, having a smile without teeth poses a serious problem to her health and self-esteem.
Alisha Bryant, who now lives at Main Street Ministries, said her parents weren?t particularly concerned about dental hygiene when she was a child.
?I didn?t learn how to brush my teeth or have regular dental appointments,? she said. ?Ever since I can remember, I also had bad toothaches.?
In recent months, her teeth have affected her health more noticeably.
?I was more tired and I had frequent headaches,? she said. ?I also had a hard time taking care of my kids?Isaac, 4, and Jayden, 3.?
Initially, Kimberly Swaney, director of Main Street Ministries, said Bryant needed three front teeth replaced.
?Before we could even think about those teeth, it turns out there are antibiotics, extensive extractions and repairs that are needed to address pain and major infection now,? Swaney said.
?Alisha has bone loss, diseased tissue and cavities, too.?
In addition to proving herself reliable by being open to growth and change within the Main Street program, Swaney added, Bryant also has no history of drug or alcohol abuse.
?As (Bryant) experiences God?s redemption in her heart, how great would that be for her smile to be transformed, too,? Swaney said.
Bryant began seeing Hillsboro dentist Loren Loewen, who agreed to take X-rays and evaluate her teeth at no charge.
Swaney said Loewen is willing to do the work at a significantly reduced cost, but he still needs almost $5,000 to complete the process.
Thus far, $3,000 has been contributed for Bryant?s dental work by the Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church, Marion County Circles, Hillsboro Area Ministerial Alliance and other individuals.
The process begins
The transition, Swaney said, will take about four months and Bryant has already taken the first steps toward a healthier, happier lifestyle.
Bryant had six teeth removed on the left side of her mouth Thursday, March 14, at a cost of $960.
?It hurts really bad because I am just taking ibuprofen,? she said. ?I was allergic to the stronger medication.?
Bryant said she will go back to Loewen?s office April 11 for a second visit.
?He will pull another four or five teeth out and it?s expected to take about three weeks to heal,? she said. ?I thought it would be like three to four days.?
The reduced price for the second visit will be about $900, Swaney said.
As for eating, Bryant said she has been living on soup and water the whole time.
If all goes well in April, Bryant said, she will be having her front teeth extracted.
?The front teeth were damaged from a childhood fall,? Swaney said.?
The reduced cost for that procedure, scheduled in May, will be about $600.
?In June, Alisha will go back for new X-rays and get partial or full dentures on the top and bottom,? Swaney said.
The Main Street director said Bryant is willing to do anything and everything to make this happen.
?Alisha is a delightful person and is facing this challenge with courage and, as it turns out, a lot of support from the Hillsboro (Marion County) community,? Swaney said.
Although the dental work is urgent, it is not life-threatening. According to information provided to Swaney by Loewen, there is no way to know if the diseased tissues/gums have begun to affect brain development.
?There are people who have had tooth decay such as hers and have died from heart failure,? Swaney said. ?The extractions and (clearing up) the infections are urgent for her overall health.?
Along with her goal of being able to have a broad smile, Bryant said she is also taking part in the Circles program and will soon be in school to obtain her CNA certificate.
Jackie Volbrecht, with the Circles program, said almost $2,000 has been raised from local churches and individuals involved in the Circles Initiative.
?I think this is going to be a real countywide effort, which is a grand thing to be a part of,? Volbrecht said. ?Alisha came to Circles the day she had six teeth pulled. She?s very dedicated.?
Swaney said with major extractions still looming, the recovery time and healing process for Bryant will be challenging.
?We are hoping for a pain-free, toothy smile soon, though,? she said. ?Now that she knows more about the importance of tooth brushing, going to the dentist and how pop, juice and candy affect health, she has made the commitment that her children will grow up knowing how to better care for themselves.?
Bryant said she hopes to be healthier once she has her bad teeth replaced. She looks forward to eating healthy foods she wasn?t able to manage for many years.
?I want to bite into an apple and not worry about hurting my teeth,? she said.
Individuals or organizations that would like to help Bryant can send checks to Main Street Ministries, 415 S. Main St., Hillsboro, KS 67063; or to Loren Loewen, DDS, 615 S. Main St., Hillsboro, KS 67063.
?I am very appreciative of all the donations that have came in,? Bryant said. ?It is amazing that people who don?t even know me can be so generous about $5,000 and helping me.?
Bryant also wanted to thank Loewen for reducing the expense.
?It?s been scary, but I am looking forward to being healthier and being able to smile.?