PINE GROVE — A motorcycle accident when Cindy Betz was just 23 years old changed the course of her life — and her desire to smile.
Betz, now a 59-year-old grandmother from Pine Grove, will soon have a second chance to express the joy on her face. She’s the first recipient of the Second Chance program, where Dr. Alexandre Balaci, a board-certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon, has offered to perform free dental implant surgery for her.
“It was nerve-wracking. I was in shock, and I couldn’t believe he picked me,” said Betz, who found out on Sept. 11 that she was chosen from among nearly 40 applicants for the program. “We were all sitting in his waiting room, and I closed my eyes and thought ‘He’s never going to pick me.’ When he said my name, I started crying, and I hugged him,” she said.
It’s a fortunate turn in the right direction, according to Betz, who’s incurred years of pain after a truck’s head-on collision with her motorcycle near Ravine left her in a coma for three weeks and broke off most of her teeth.
Initially, she had crowns placed on some of her teeth that were to last about 20 years. The crowns eventually started breaking off, and her mouth became infected and extremely sore, she said.
Betz was formerly a manager at a Family Dollar store and had also worked as a baker at Wylde Snack Foods in Womelsdorf, PA. A friend at work, Jen Boyer, Ephrata, sent Betz a link to Balaci’s website, and Betz filled out the paperwork to apply for the free program.
“It’s made me not so depressed,” Betz said.
“I think I’m going to be able to get out there and smile and not be so embarrassed just to walk into a store,” she said.
She’s been eating soft foods — applesauce and mashed potatoes — and food chopped into small pieces.
“I really can’t chew,” she said.
Balaci started the Second Chance Program as a way to give back to patients like Betz.
“I have always been involved in providing free, donated care to individuals. This care was usually on an emergency basis and was never comprehensive in nature. The treatment would get a patient out of pain and address one or two problems,” he said.
“For all my career, I have been involved in the placement of dental implants. I have met many individuals that either were missing all of their teeth or their teeth were in such bad repair that the only solution was for complete replacement. All of these individuals spoke of how their condition affected them physically, psychologically, and socially. Unfortunately, a significant number of these people could not afford to complete this type of treatment. After 20-plus years in practice, I thought it would be great to be able to give back a little and try to offer someone a new start,” he said.
“All patients that receive this type of care have special challenges,” Balaci said. “For Cindy, it was to get her out pain and to clear up her existing dental infections.”
Her type of surgery would cost in the $40,000 to $50,000 range, Balaci said.
On Nov. 2, Betz underwent the first part of her procedure. She said Balaci pulled all of her remaining teeth and completed a bone graft, using bone from the back of her mouth for her jaw bone area, then ground down her jaw bone, making it more even. On Dec. 21, Betz said she will have an x-ray taken to see if there’s enough bone there, and how it’s healed before she receives her new teeth as a dental implant.
According to Betz, a cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Shawn R. Habakus, is scheduled to take impressions of her gums, so that her new teeth can be created. Balaci will then drill the holes and use screws to insert the new, permanent teeth, she said. The entire process should take between four to six months to complete, Balaci said.
“My bones were really ridged. He had to grind them down and make them even,” Betz said.
When asked how she thought the implants would change her life, Betz said, “It will be easier to answer after it’s all done. That’s really difficult for me to say right now. I know I’ll be smiling more.”
Cindy’s family includes her husband, Rodney Betz; six children, Rodney Allen Betz, Terry Robertson, Christopher Brown, Jaclyn Brown, Angel Brown and Traci Brown; and eight grandsons and two granddaughters.
Although she’s still in the middle of the process for her new smile, Betz said already she’s noticed that her jaw “doesn’t pop anymore.” She praised the gift Balaci has given her.
“He’s a very generous man,” she said.
For more information, visit the website for Balaci Oral and Facial Surgery at https://jawcare.com. Balaci has an office in Lebanon.
Published on Dec. 9, 2015 by Vicki Terwilliger.