‘Dream come true’; Michigan woman wins free smile makeover

The Smile Again program through a Grand Rapids oral surgery office grants a $50,000 dental implant surgery to one recipient a year.

CALEDONIA, Mich. — A local oral surgery office is granting a Kent County woman a $50,000 smile makeover — for free. It’s part of the Smile Again program to give back to those in need of the life-changing dental implant surgery.     

Dr. Mark Jesin delivered the big surprise to Dijana Znidarcic at her home in Caledonia. 

She was overcome with emotion after hearing the news. She has applied several years in a row for the giveaway, done by the Advanced Oral Surgery and Dental Implant Studio. 

“It’s a huge surprise,” she says. 

Dijana wears ill-fitting dentures, which have been a choking hazard when she eats. 

“It can really affect your entire overall health with your inability to take in good nutrition,” Dr. Jesin, an oral surgeon, says. 

It’s also impacted her daily life. 

“I was sometimes so ashamed because I cannot eat in public because of that problem,” Dijana says. “I have dentures and they’re falling down. And it’s very embarrassing. Now, that’s gonna be changed.”

She has always put her family first, fleeing the former Yugoslavia during the war. She and her family first went to Italy, then came to America as refugees. 

“I worked for 40 years in three different countries. And my financial situation was not was giving me permission to take good care of my teeth. I needed to take care of my two sons,” Dijana says.

When her husband passed suddenly, she raised her boys as a widow. 

“I’m blessed to have them and be in (a) safe country because my life (was not) easy. It was rough,” Dijana says. 

“Dijana is just such a special person,” Dr. Jesin says. “She had a life that kind of really rang true in a personal way to me. My family also had a refugee background. They came in the Holocaust over from Europe.”

He says more than 100 people applied for the program this year. Applications have opened annually for the past six years in September, and the winner is announced before the holiday season. 

Dijana will soon get scans, and her surgery will be scheduled after the holidays. 

“I want to also just encourage people not to give up,” Dr. Jesin says. “Dijana didn’t give up.”

“Today, it’s my dream come true,” Dijana says. 

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