'I feel very blessed:' Fresno woman given second chance to smile with new teeth

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- 33-year-old Erlinda Vargas never spent much time at the dentist growing up and through adulthood. She could never afford it.

But around Thanksgiving of 2017, she won a contest for a smile makeover.

A new dental appliance put in by Dr. Sam Namdarian allows Erlinda to look in the mirror and smile at what she sees.

"Just even the way I present myself, the way I feel about myself. I feel like my self-esteem is so much better. I don't feel that sad, depressed person anymore," Vargas said.

At the time her dental work began, Vargas had just six teeth left on her upper jaw. She needed five implants.

Eating was difficult, but she put off the dental work she needed so she could take care of her three kids.

"She exemplifies the struggles a mother can have in life," said surgeon Dr. Ardy Kheradpir.

Vargas was selected by the team at Fresno Oral Maxillofacial Surgery & Dental Implant Center out of 400 candidates in a Second Chance Program.

Her children have noticed a change in her behavior.

"They see a different person in me. They see how happy I am. I'm more out-going," Vargas said.

And she appreciates those who have given her a million dollar smile.

"It could be difficult but Erlinda was definitely deserving, and we're really happy she was the final candidate," Dr. Kheradpir said.

Erlinda's new smile has changed her life. At work, she no longer sits in the lunchroom quietly and by herself. The dental work would have cost upwards of $30,000.

"I feel very blessed, very fortunate," she said.

This was the first time the dental group held a contest like this, but it may not be the last.
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