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Dental Heroes: A simple idea can be very powerful

KaVo Kerr Connections

KaVo Kerr Team

Dental Heroes: A simple idea can be very powerful

Have you ever heard the saying that the easiest ideas are sometimes the most overlooked? Amanda Shelton took a simple idea and changed a child's life forever because of it. And, because of that, she is being honored as the first Everyday Hero in 2018 by KaVo Kerr.

Shelton, the office manager at River Rock Dental in Austin, Texas, started the Smiles in Need program with a simple goal: To pay forward an act of kindness to someone who didn't have the financial needs to make a dream happen. With a bit of ingenuity and the kindness and generosity of her patients, Smiles in Need quickly became a reality.  "I have been in dentistry for more than 20 years and I have seen a lot of people come into the dental practice who are in need," Shelton said. "I was in a bad place in my mind because of some personal tragedy that had occurred and I needed a project. Smiles in Need was the thought process that came to me. I wondered how many people would get on board with the idea. I was shocked and surprised how quickly it grew."

That is because Shelton and the River Rock Dental team put a simple proposal out to their patients. Many of them had existing credits on their balances. Those patients were asked if they would like to have the credit refunded to them, use the credit or donate it to Smiles in Need. The answers were quick and nearly unanimous. It was an easy way to give and River Rock Dental patients were behind the idea.

"Everyone can make a difference," Shelton said. "Large or small, if people will just go with it and see how they can make a difference, they will be surprised. You never know the kind of difference you can make in someone else's life."

The life Shelton and the River Rock Dental patients impacted was 15-year-old Armando, who needed braces but it wasn't in the budget for his single mother who was working multiple jobs to take care of Armando and his three siblings. Medicaid would not factor into Armando's need for braces because it was considered a cosmetic procedure. It seemed that Armando's hope for straight, beautiful teeth had hit a wall before Shelton and her team of do-gooders swooped in like superheroes. "I had exhausted all of my resources. It was challenging because I knew it was something that needed to be done," said Armando's mother, Francis.

"Armando not only has a cross-bite but also a narrow palate. I knew these weren't going to be ordinary braces and that he was going to need to have his mouth expanded as well. I also knew that if we didn't get the braces on him when he was younger, he was going to need jaw surgery when he was older. That was going to cost 10 times more and would no longer be a cosmetic procedure but a very necessary procedure."

While Francis was worried about the future, Shelton was working her magic behind the scenes with her patients. "In three days, we had raised enough to pay for Armando's braces, simply through the kindness of others, Shelton beamed. And when the day came to let Armando and his mom know what was getting ready to happen, Shelton and her team floored the family with their kindness. "Amanda has been amazing and she had kept up with me during the time that I did not think we were going to be able to do Armando's braces," Francis recalled. "One day, she reached out to me and said she might have a solution. I was wondering if they had set up a payment plan or worked things out with insurance." Little did Francis know what was coming. "We scheduled an appointment on Friday and I pulled Armando out of school so we could be there together to talk about this new option," Francis said.

"We get there and I realized it was after hours but it didn't raise a red flag with me. Amanda came out and took us to the back a different way than we normally went. Remember, we had not seen her in a couple of months but she was so kind and friendly. We go into the back and go into a different room and suddenly there were people coming out of everywhere to be in the room with us. We had no idea what was going on. The dentist, orthodontist and the entire team was standing there."

And that's when Shelton dropped the life-changing news on Francis and Armando. "When she said that Smiles in Need was going to take care of Armando, the two of us just froze," Francis remembered. "We just were looking at each other and a million thoughts were running through our heads. We couldn't process what was happening. Our mouths hit the floor. When we realized this was real and happening, we just started hugging and crying. I just remember Armando was all smiles," Shelton added.

Thanks to Shelton and Smiles in Need, that smile will be changed forever through the orthodontic procedure that is expected to take around two years. Now that Shelton has seen the impact it has made in Armando's life, she wants to expand the Smiles in Need program. "I had the idea for Smiles in Need and proposed it to the CEO of our group practice," said Shelton as River Rock Dental is one of six practices in this particular group. “I laid out the plan for him and he said he would let me try it in our office and see how it went. Now, I can see that this program could very well expand into the other practices as well. I am on Cloud Nine."

Shelton is hoping that Smiles in Need doesn't just expand to those practices within her group, however. She is wanting this to be a program that spreads quickly across the nation. "This could easily be replicated by any practice anywhere," Shelton said. "I am happy to answer any questions and help anyone understand how it works. It is a great opportunity for anyone to pay it forward and works any time of the year. So many times, people think about giving around the holidays. This is a program that works any month of any year." For Francis, Smiles in Need has provided her and her son with an amazing story. "Things like this just don't happen that often to you in life, Francis said. I have never had anything like this happen to me in my life. It is an amazing feeling to know that complete strangers are willing to help Armando. I am touched."


Note: To reach Shelton with questions about how to start a Smiles in Need program at your practice, drop her an email at To learn more about Smiles in Need or to donate, log on to

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