‘We did it!’: Woman grateful for new smile after help from local dentist & NBC12 viewers
HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - After battling cancer and spending years losing teeth, a mom and wife called 12 On Your Side, hoping to get her smile back.
In January, NBC12 shared Bernadette Lautenslager’s search to find a dentist to work with her.
“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.”
After her story aired in January, the community helped her exceed a fundraising goal for new teeth within just one hour. She was also connected with Dr. Faryl Hart with Richmond VA Dental Arts.
After months of appointments, surgeries, and some tears, Bernadette has a new smile and is thankful for Dr. Hart’s impact on her life.
“She’s been solid when I wasn’t so much. She has been my rock when I was caving, said Bernadette. “We’ve built a friendship--she is not just my doctor. She is my friend.”
Dr. Hart says she was told by a friend to make sure she tuned into Bernadette’s story on Jan. 18.
“I turned the TV on, I am sitting there, and I go, ‘she needs a smile for her daughter’s wedding,’ and that’s about how long it took,” said Dr. Hart.
She was the first healthcare provider to reach out to NBC12 to offer to help. Dr. Hart’s name is fitting, considering why she chose the profession.
In 1971, after her parents divorced when she was 13, Dr. Hart and her mom moved from California to Florida. In Texas, her mom developed a toothache--but kept driving. Her relief came when they finally got to Tampa.
“She walked across the parking lot, came back, and she was out of pain and was like a new woman, and I said that is what I want to learn how to do,” Dr. Hart explained.
Helping people, making sure they are no longer in pain--rooting her practice in compassion, is what Dr. Hart has spent more than 30 years dedicated to.
“Don’t judge, when somebody comes in, don’t say, ‘why weren’t you here last week?’” she said, “I like to say we are going to start fresh, we are here today, and we are going to move forward.”
Seeing Bernadette today, Dr. Hart feels a sense of gratitude.
“It’s like she’s a new person, and I helped! It is just an amazing gratifying feeling to have this skill set, and I share it, and I share it willingly,” Dr. Hart explained.
Over the last few months, Bernadette’s life has changed for the better. She is no longer in pain, she can eat again, and she has been able to gain weight.
“I feel so much better, just my confidence is coming back,” she said. “There’s family pictures of us [from the wedding], and I’ve got the biggest smile of all. It was wonderful to be able to do that and not hide at all.”
She is thankful for every single person who donated and for every healthcare provider involved in making sure she could have a new smile. Bernadette hopes to help someone else who may be struggling like she was.
“We did it! I thank ya’ll, and I thank everybody. We did it!” she said.
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