Heim gives kids a reason to smile | PostIndependent.com

Heim gives kids a reason to smile

Amanda Holt MillerPost Independent Staff
Post Independent/Kara K. PearsonDr. Jay Heim prepares to fill a cavity for patient Anna Gallardo, 13, during Give Kids a Smile Day Friday. The program is set up to provide free dental education and/or treatment to low-income children to help raise awareness about the importance dental care for uninsured populations.

Jay Heim has a thing for great smiles.”Everyone’s smile is different,” Heim said. “Not everyone’s bite or jaw is the same.”Heim is a dentist in Glenwood Springs who donates his time every year to help low-income kids keep their healthy smiles.Give Kids a Smile Day is a Colorado Dental Association event that dentists in different towns throughout the state participate in.”It’s mostly bare-bones dentistry for kids, who sometimes haven’t ever been to the dentist before,” Heim said. “I donate a day to show them how to brush their teeth, take care of them. I really don’t like to see these little kids having pain. That’s what we want to avoid.”Heim said he’s not alone in the valley. Just about every dentist he knows donates time to different causes, even if it’s just fixing someone up and letting them off the hook for the bill, Heim said.The kids who come to Heim for “Give Kids a Smile” are typically recommended by a school counselor to visit him. He spends about an hour with each of the kids. He said he often needs a significant amount of time to go over everything with them and check what probably hasn’t ever been checked before.Dentists have historically had a bad rap – known more for their torture chairs and scary tools than for the good they do.

Dentistry has changed a lot in recent years, Heim said.”We’re not your mom and dad’s dentist anymore,” Heim said. “With things like digital x-rays and new technology, it’s not the big ordeal it used to be to go to the dentist.”Heim’s neighbor growing up in a farming community in Nebraska was a dentist and encouraged Heim to consider it as a profession.”What I like about dentistry – you use your mind and you also get to use your hands to create something,” Heim said. “There’s an artistic element to dentistry.”Heim said he enjoys helping people create their ideal smiles.”It is a very small canvas,” Heim said. “We work in millimeters and 10ths of millimeters.”But ultimately Heim believes his work is important. Good teeth are key when it comes to quality of life. He said people should probably, depending on their situations, get a professional teeth cleaning every six months and x-rays at least once a year.”The dental hygienist can reach areas, using special instruments, that you can’t get to,” Heim said. “She can clean plaque and tarter from places you’re not able to get to on your own. You don’t want gum problems to start.”

Heim went to school at the University of Nebraska, where he kicked around the idea of working in wildlife biology and even medicine.”But medicine seemed like such a long haul,” Heim said. “Dentistry was four years, and then I could start practicing.”Heim Came to Glenwood Springs in 1991 to work with Dr. Rob Anderson, a long-time dentist in the valley.”I thought it was a pretty good lifestyle,” Heim said. “I don’t want to go back to Nebraska.”Heim is a regular telemark skier and mountain biker.”You can’t do those things in Nebraska,” Heim said. “Glenwood is our home. This is where we want to raise our kids.”Heim and his wife Martha have three kids, Katherine, 8, Matt, 6, and Ben, 3. They go to school at Sopris Elementary School and spend a lot of time enjoying Colorado with their parents.”We really try to teach them that the outdoors is the best,” Heim said.

Heim met Martha in Glenwood Springs shortly after he came to the area.”I moved here a bachelor,” Heim said. “My wife is from upstate New York, where her family still is.”Neither Heim nor his wife ever had braces growing up. They both floss regularly and brush thoroughly.”But our kids are like any other kids,” Heim said. “They love their sugar. And they’re good at fooling you. You ask if they brushed and they could say they did and the toothbrush is wet, but that doesn’t mean they did it.”Heim said regular dental care is important and that’s why he donates his time. He wants to make sure kids don’t go without seeing the dentist, because little problems can easily become big ones if they’re ignored.”It’s just like driving a car,” Heim said. “You wouldn’t pull off the lot and go five years without changing the oil. If you change the oil and change the tires, you’ll be in better shape.”Contact Amanda Holt Miller: 625-3245, ext. 103ahmiller@postindependent.com

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