May 20, 2016 by Tammy Howell
On May 20th, 2016 two women met a dentist who will have a meaningful impact on their lives for years to come. Tonya Trevillion and Stephanie Lucero are dental patients at North Country HealthCare – Flagstaff. Each of these women have been without access to dental care for years, but that all changed when they were given custom dentures, which were provided by North Country HealthCare’s Angel Fund.
Tonya Trevillion, 45, is a mother of three and grandmother to two. She spent part of her childhood in Show Low, Arizona, where she and the neighborhood kids would ride bikes until the sun went down. When Tonya was in elementary school, she was riding her bike to her grandmother’s house when a friend reached out and grabbed her handlebars, causing Tonya to crash face-first into the gravel road. Tonya’s front tooth broke, gravel was embedded in her gum line, and she suffered severe nerve damage. This accident, coupled with improper dental hygiene, was the start to Tonya’s life-long struggle to have healthy teeth.
Tonya eventually had a crown placed on her chipped tooth, but the crown didn’t fit properly and was the wrong color. To add to that, the dentist who performed the procedure failed to do a root canal on the decaying tooth. So when Tonya’s crown chipped several years later, the rotten tooth could be seen underneath. All of this weighed heavily on Tonya’s self-esteem, especially during her time as a waitress.
“Having bad teeth affected my self-esteem tremendously,” Tonya said. “When you’re a waitress, your smile is the thing that gets you a tip! I did my best to stay positive and try not to think about it.”
In her early twenties, Tonya had enough. Her grandfather gifted her with a set of top dentures that she hoped would be the solution to her dental issues. But when the dentures kept slipping out of her mouth, she quickly became frustrated, and soon the dentures broke in half. With no dental insurance and no funds to pay for a new set, Tonya was forced to glue her dentures together with nail glue – which she has done repeatedly for the last 20 years. Finally, last year the dentures could no longer be repaired with glue, and Tonya was completely out of options.
During a visit to her primary care provider, Tonya was referred to North Country HealthCare for dental services. Tonya has AHCCCS, Arizona’s Medicaid plan; as an adult, Tonya’s insurance would not pay for any dental procedures. Her dentist put in a request for North Country HealthCare’s Angel Fund to pay for a new set of dentures for Tonya. Much to her delight, the request was approved.
When she was seen by a North Country dentist last fall, her entire face was swollen due to infection, and she was told that her remaining nine teeth needed to be extracted. She was prescribed two different antibiotics to take for four months to rid her body of infection.
Now, infection free and with no more teeth, Tonya is ready for her new dentures. Friday, May 20th Dr. Sibera Brannon, general dentist at Affordable Dentures, came to North Country HealthCare in Flagstaff to take impressions of Tonya’s gums. Dr. Brannon will create her new, custom set of dentures, at no cost to her. She will be able to wear her new dentures by the end of June. The thing Tonya is most excited about for having new dentures? Smiling again.
“I’ve never had nice teeth in my life,” Tonya said. “When I was told I was getting new dentures, I cried. I’m so thankful to the Angel Fund; it has been an answer to prayer. I am so grateful.”
Most people would describe Stephanie Lucero as a caring and compassionate person, the only person you’d would want at the bedside when you are sick. Stephanie describes herself as very shy, someone who avoids social situations. Stephanie is the one who stays in the kitchen to cook at every family event, because she doesn’t want even her closest family members to see her teeth.
A Flagstaff native and the oldest of eight children, Stephanie, 56, has struggled with unhealthy teeth her whole life. She has always said she “has her mother’s teeth,” which deteriorated throughout her life, just like Stephanie’s. Later in life Stephanie’s teeth became loose as she struggled with diabetes, and multiple teeth had to be extracted as years went by. In her thirties Stephanie was fitted with partial, temporary dentures which were so uncomfortable that she got blisters in her mouth.
With her dental issues, the naturally shy Stephanie became even more withdrawn. She sought jobs cleaning houses, so she didn’t have to smile at people or show her teeth.
A patient at North Country HealthCare in Flagstaff, Stephanie expressed to her provider during a check-up that her greatest wish was to get dentures. She, too, was on AHCCCS, which does not cover dental procedures for adults. Later that week, Stephanie received a voicemail explaining that her medical provider at North Country had requested that Stephanie’s dentures be paid for by the Angel Fund, and that the request had been approved.
Six weeks later, Stephanie was on the road to Phoenix to be fitted for her new dentures, along with two other Angel Fund patients who were also receiving dentures that same day. When she walked out of the dentist’s office with new teeth, Stephanie had a new lease on life.
“I used to be the person who always sat in the back of the room, but I’m a different person now. Now I smile all the time, just like everybody else!” Stephanie said.
Friday, May 20th, Stephanie got the opportunity to thank Dr. Brannon and show off her new smile. She expressed her gratitude and explained how much these dentures have impacted her life.
“I’m one of those people, that if you give me a piece of bread, I’ll be grateful for the rest of my life,” Stephanie said. “I can’t express how thankful and happy I am!”
The Angel Fund is funded in part by the John H. Caskey Endowment at North Country HealthCare. The Angel Fund supports North Country’s uninsured and underinsured patients who have healthcare needs they are unable to afford. Proceeds received by the Angel Fund assist these patients in a number of ways such as to purchase much needed medical equipment, provide diagnostic testing not covered by insurance, provide transportation and overnight stays for out-of-town medical appointments, assist with living condition modifications and much more depending upon the individual. For more information, visit northcountryhealthcarefoundation.org.
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