Rebuilding Smiles: Teenager enlists dentists parent’s help to provide free dental care to the homeless

Teenager helps community to solve dental issues
Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 6:51 PM CST
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HOWARD, Wis. (WBAY) - It can become a hassle trying to get to the dentist’s office twice a year for an annual check-up. For some, however, that’s not possible. Nolan Van Miller, a senior at De Pere High School, made that dream a reality Friday for a few lucky patients at the New Community Shelter.

“I was just trying to help..trying to be more progressive in the community,” Nolan Van Miller said. “I did not think on this great scale how much it would help people but I just really wanted to help.”

While he’s already volunteering at the shelter, Nolan wanted to give more to those less fortunate. He had overheard people complaining about their own toothaches and pains. He enlisted the help of his parents, Drs. Eric and Rebecca Van Miller to help make smiles more accessible. Since February is known as Dental Health Month, it was the perfect time to help those in need.

“This is why I became a dentist,” Eric Van Miller said. “My specialty is pediatric dentistry, my wife is a general dentist and between the two of us we try to give back as much as we can.”

Throughout the day Friday, they provided free dental care to those who are unable to afford it on their own regardless of the complexity of care needed.

Prior to the pandemic, Nolan’s parents would host a “Donate a Dental Day” at their practice “Meadowbrook Smiles”. After not hosting the event for a few years and Nolan brought the idea to Drs. Eric and Rebecca Van Miller’s attention, they thought they would give it a shot again to give back to the community.

Dr. Eric Van Miller said most of his patients suffered from severe mouth issues ranging from the removal of infected teeth to just oral diseases in general. It was essential that these people were able to get this kind of care because they were on the cusp of going to the hospital.

“We try to do this to keep them out of the hospital system as much as possible because I know they are overwhelmed with everything else that is going on in the world and getting them to a healthier state of life,” Dr. Eric Van Miller said.

Nolan Van Miller said he felt great about how the event went. He loved seeing how many people he made happy and the new smiles that he saw. He was glad to have enstilled more confidence in the people he helped.

“Most of them haven’t been to the dentist in 20-something years, and some of them are just afraid to smile so getting that confidence back for them...I’m really appreciative.”