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‘I hide behind this, I don’t want to’: Family raising money for mother in need of extensive dental work meets goal

A Henrico mother is hoping to have a new smile in time for her daughters wedding, after years...
A Henrico mother is hoping to have a new smile in time for her daughters wedding, after years of health issues. Bernadette Lautenslager is in need of a full extraction and dentures but cannot afford the nearly $8,000 worth of work.(NBC 12)
Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 2:01 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 18, 2022 at 8:41 PM EST
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HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - A Henrico mother hopes to have a new smile in time for her daughter’s wedding after years of health issues.

Bernadette Lautenslager needs a full extraction and dentures but cannot afford the nearly $8,000 worth of work. Thanks to the generosity of the community, the fundraising goal was met within an hour after her story aired on NBC12.

“My daughter is getting married [in May], and all my teeth need to be taken,” she said. “I want to be in her pictures, and I have worn this mask for way too long. It was a good excuse that I could wear it and cover what I have got going on.”

The 45-year-old continues to battle with lymphoma, and a recent flare-up led to radiation on the neck, causing her teeth to fall out.

“A lot of them have already gone or are going. I tried to fix them by myself, and I cannot do that anymore,” said Lautenslager.

She has worked for years as a waitress, living paycheck to paycheck. While the family received CARE Credit, it is not enough to cover the costs of the dental work. Lautenslager has also struggled to find a dentist who might be willing to work with her on a payment plan.

“I tried going places to get them fixed, and they all want everything upfront. The CARE Credit is for $2,500, so only just a piece of it,” she explained. “A lot of people are like ‘go get your teeth fixed.’ It is not like that for a lot of people. There was one [dentist] in particular, I just came out of there devastated, they were like ‘I can’t do anything with that.’ They winced, and it wasn’t the right place to go.”

She recently had an appointment with a health organization, hoping to find outside funding for the work. Still, if that does not happen, Lautenslager’s family is working to raise the money for the dental work.

“I used to be very outgoing. It takes so much from you. My husband, even my husband, he is like ‘baby, you are beautiful.’ I don’t ever feel beautiful,” Lautenslager explained. “I just want to be able to look at people and be who I am.”

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