Schaumburg dentist gives away smiles for free to disabled patients

Daily Herald

Dr. A.J. Acierno’s Schaumburg dental office was bustling on Friday afternoon with patients getting checkups, cleanings and filings.

He and his staff normally close up and head home for the weekend at 1 p.m., but this day was different.

Wearing “A Reason to Smile” T-shirts, Acierno and his staff spend three hours Friday afternoons every other month providing basic dental care to adults with developmental disabilities from Clearbrook, the Arlington Heights-based social service agency.

Clearbrook, like other nonprofits, has seen cuts in funding from the state, including money for dental care.

One of Acierno’s patients, whose brother is a Clearbrook client, suggested Acierno meet with Clearbrook officials, who told the dentist about the cutbacks.

Acierno decided to donate his time and encouraged his staff at the 14 dental offices he oversees to do the same. Acierno is CEO of DecisionOne Dental Partners, which has offices in Elk Grove Village, St. Charles, Lake in the Hills and Cary.

He’s now been providing the service to Clearbrook clients for about a year.

“Every office participates at some point,” he said, including dentists, hygienists and front desk staff who volunteer their time.

Acierno’s practice picks up the costs for the dental work. He says the importance of service to others was ingrained in him growing up.

“I think it’s a moral issue,” he said. “To watch a group of people, that need help that our government refuses to help — that’s sad and totally unacceptable.”

Many of the high-functioning Clearbrook clients who come in suffer from poor dental health, and regular dental care is difficult to afford.

Acierno says he’s planning to expand his services to perhaps four hours on a Friday, or having Clearbrook patients in twice a month, because of the need that exists.

Jacquie Lange, a Clearbrook medical driver, regularly brings the agency’s clients for dental checkups. Nearly 20 clients saw Acierno and his staff on this recent Friday.

“There’s a huge need,” Lange said. “This is just fabulous. This is a Godsend to us.”