Jackson Shatford-Banks is about to receive life-changing orthodontic treatment, but he is more excited about the chance to support the Wanderers by wearing the rugby team's colours on his teeth.
The Waimea Intermediate student, who is 12, plans to get elastics in blue and gold to fit his new braces when Nelson orthodontist Andrew Marriott installs them next month. He is receiving the work at a significantly reduced cost thanks to the Wish for a Smile Trust, which is administered by the New Zealand Association of Orthodontists.
The trust takes care of young New Zealanders who have very crooked teeth or a particularly bad bite but cannot afford orthodontic treatment. In return, the children must complete 20 hours volunteer work in their local community.
Jackson has recently finished his volunteering at the Nelson SPCA, where he vacuumed, cleaned cages and got "a little bit" of cuddle time with the animals.
Dr Marriott said Jackson had a severe open bite, which meant his front teeth did not bite over the bottom row. This made it difficult for him to eat, and also affected his speech. In addition to this, Jackson's teeth were crowded and crooked, and he had an "overjet" where his front teeth protruded.
Dr Marriott was unable to say how rare Jackson's situation was, but said he had a combination of three "major" issues. He wanted to treat the boy because his teeth had caused both physical and social difficulties.
"We'll get his teeth nice and straight, they'll be back in his face."
He said he was keen to get the word out about the Wish for a Smile Trust as it had approved more than half of the applications received so far. It was established in 2011.
Jackson said he had been bullied at primary school because of his appearance, but felt more secure in intermediate after learning better coping skills.
"Now when people bully me I just ignore it."
He said he had not often thought about how life would be after his teeth were straightened, but imagined it would be much the same, "just with better teeth". He was comfortable in the orthodontist's office, investigating the adjustable chair and the pairs of false teeth on the shelf.
"I just don't think about it, and get it done."
His father, Brent Shatford-Banks, said Jackson had been self-conscious about his teeth as a child before growing out of his anxiety. He said Jackson had once stood up in church to pray for them to be fixed. "There's no way me and [Jackson's mother] Beryl could have afforded it, we'd have to sell the house."
Mrs Shatford-Banks said she felt "helpless" to do anything about Jackson's teeth before hearing about Wish for a Smile, and was thrilled he had the chance to receive specialist treatment.
He is undergoing ACC-funded root canal work to fix "non-vital" teeth which suffered nerve damage after a skateboarding accident, and faces about two years of orthodontic work once this is complete. An operation on his jaw may also be necessary after his "adult jaw" comes in at 16 years of age.
Jackson said he was pleased to hear he would not have to stop playing rugby during the two years he would receive orthodontic treatment. "It's fine, they're just giving me a special mouthguard."
Those who are interested in applying for dental assistance should speak to their dentist or orthodontist, or see orthodontists.org.nz/wishforasmile.
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