Sharing the Joy
Dec. 9-10, 2000
Arkansas woman gets early holiday gift from area dentist
By Sarah Long
FORT WASHINGTON — When area prosthodontist Dr. Thomas Balshi received a distraught email from an Arkansas woman recently, he decided to give her a Christmas present she would never forget.
Balshi flew Kim Purtell, 30, from Lockesburg, Arkanasas — population 400 — to his Fort Washington practice this week, where he performed an extensive procedure that gave Purtell a new set of teeth and a restored self confidence.
“He’s just incredible,” Purtell said. “He’s got a heart bigger than Texas.”
Purtell came to Balshi with abscesses, advanced bone loss and periodontal disease so severe that it left her mouth decayed and devoid of half its teeth.
“As soon as her teeth touched, you could see her wince with pain,” Balshi, of Lower Gwynedd, said.
But after a six-hour, $34,000 procedure performed by Balshi and his partner Glenn Wolfinger, Purtell said her pain was gone — and her smile is back.
“Whenever I talked to people, I used to constantly turn my head. I wouldn’t hardly smile if I could help it,” Purtell said. “Now, I can’t quit smiling all the time.
Purtell’s new smile includes a set of upper dentures and a permanent set of implanted lower teeth made of ceramic-like material and titanium.
All expenses for the procedure were incurred by Balshi’s practice, Pi Dental Center. The staff of 25 even gave up their annual gift exchange to contribute to the “present.”
“It’s part of our responsibility as good Christian people,” Balshi said. “It’s a nice time of year to do this.”
Balshi and his wife, Joanne, who are actively involved in the area and at their St. Rose of Lima parish, said once a year they try to help those who need extensive dental care but can’t afford it.
Last year, Balshi gave implants to a brother and sister from the Midwest who were born without teeth. And Pi Dental Center has a clinic in Mexico City where doctors perform procedures and work with the community.
However, the couple said helping Purtell was particularly rewarding.
“I told Kim, ‘We gave you a gift but I feel I got the greater gift,’ ” Joanne Balshi said.
Purtell’s transformation from self-conscious timidity to joyful confidence was immediate — and overwhelming, Balshi said.
“It’s an absolute thrill,” he said. Every time you finish a patient like Kim, it makes your heart sing.”