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Local experts say dentists can be the first line of defense against domestic violence

A team at the University of Arizona College of Medicine found 75% of victims with neck and head injuries also have oral injuries, so local experts agree dentists could play a large roll in identifying and putting a stop to that violence.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Researchers at the University of Arizona College of Medicine believe their new findings show how dentists can essentially be at the forefront of addressing domestic violence in some cases. 

►READ: Domestic violence victims have resources in East Tennessee

Dr. Smita Bolore is a local dentist and the head of Smiles for Hope, which is a local organization that restores smiles for domestic violence survivors.

►RELATED: East TN dentist starts nonprofit 'Smiles for Hope' to help others

"There's honestly less words in this work and more tears of joy and tears of gratitude," she said. 

The organization started three years ago and Borole said over time she's seen countless stories.

"There was one woman, her abuser forced her to remove every single tooth from her mouth because that was his way of controlling her," she said. "She went without teeth for 8 years and didn't recognize herself when she got her teeth back."

These are the difficult stories she continues to see day in and day out, and unfortunately they are common.

According to the CDC, one in three women have experienced domestic violence and for men about it is about one in four.

 "It's staggering and I've seen it, I've seen it," she said.

But the data out of the University of Arizona College of Medicine brings light to the role dentists can play in helping identifying and stopping that.

It found 75 percent of victims with neck and head injuries also have oral injuries.

"Statistics say it takes them seven attempts to finally leave the abuser," Borole said.

The injuries can include anything from chipped teeth to trauma to the mouth and jaw.

This is something Borole has dedicated the last three years to fixing. She says each patient has a story but thankfully in this chapter, with help from resources like Smiles for Hope, they get a happy ending.

"When they finally leave they are completely scarred physically and emotionally," she said. "But the most emotional moment is these women see their faces for the very first time with teeth in their mouth and they are themselves again."

Victims of domestic violence in East Tennessee have resources available for them to get help.

►To contact The Family Justice Center, click here.

►To contact The Helen Ross McNabb Center, click here.

►To contact The Restoration House, click here.

►For domestic violence resources provided by the City of Knoxville, click here.

East Tennessee Crisis Numbers:

►Mobile Crisis (18 and older): (865) 539-2409

►Mobile Crisis (Children and Adolescents): (866) 539-2409

►Crisis Stabilization Unit: (865) 541-6958

►Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee: (865) 522-7273

►Domestic Violence-Family Crisis Center Hotline: (865) 637-8000

►Safe Place: (865) 523-2689 

►National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:1-800-273-TALK (8255) 

►TN Hotline for Mental Health and Substance Use Crisis Services: 1-855-CRISIS-1 (274-7471)