Thursday, May 30, 2002

Isle dentist hopes to bring
wide focus to abuse victims

By Pat Gee

As the newly elected president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, Dr. Wynn Okuda hopes to bring national focus to his program to help domestic violence victims.

At 39, Okuda is the youngest president in the organization's 18-year history. He has been practicing cosmetic and restorative dentistry since 1988 and has an office in Kaimuki.

In 1997, Okuda founded the award-winning "Give Back a Smile" program with 1,000 dentists participating nationwide. It provides free consultation and cosmetic treatment to survivors of domestic violence.

He said, "I know how self-esteem and someone's front teeth (are linked), especially for women in domestic violence who don't have the money for it (treatment) and have children to take care of."

"Self-esteem goes beyond teeth. If someone loses their teeth (and can't replace them) ... the ramifications are tremendous. They become imprisoned in their own house because they are too embarrassed to be seen, and people will see it right away as soon as they start talking. You can't hide it with makeup like you can a scar," he said.

Okuda's biggest goal as president is to get his program nationally recognized by dentists and the public. A thousand volunteer dentists "may seem like a lot, but there's a lot of people out there" who need help, he said.

Domestic violence is a problem that is usually "swept under the rug," he has found, and focusing the spotlight on his program should also help the general plight of the victims, Okuda added.

The Makiki resident has become recognized internationally in his field, serving as past president of the Hawaii Academy of General Dentistry and Fellow of the International College of Dentists. He is also former editor of the prestigious Journal of Cosmetic Dentistry, the international publication of the AACD. That organization is the largest in cosmetic dentistry, with nearly 5,000 members from the United States and more than 40 countries worldwide.

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