In the recently announced 2021 Moncton Community Votes awards, Christos Papadopoulos (DDS’13) was named a gold winner in the dentistry category. Through LinkedIn, he thanked his “colleagues, co-workers, patients who trust me with their orthodontic care, and the support of the overall community.”

The response says a lot about Dr. Papadopoulos, who studied dentistry at Dalhousie, completed a paediatric residency at UBC, and a Master of Clinical Dentistry degree in orthodontics at Western University, and who then returned home to New Brunswick to “be part of the community that shaped me.”

Dr. Papadopoulos grew up in Quispamsis, N.B., a town of around 20,000 in the greater Saint John area. He played soccer and basketball, took piano lessons, and enjoyed acting with the Kennebecasis Valley Players. Through his piano teacher, Papadopoulos began coaching Special Olympics soccer.

As a teenager, he received orthodontic treatment from Dr. Donald Fitzpatrick (DDS’74) and he found himself fascinated by the process. “Dr. Fitzpatrick was a mentor for me. He allowed me to ask a lot of questions and inspired me at a young age to think about becoming an orthodontist.”

By the time he was studying for a BSc at UNB, Papadopoulos knew that his next step would be dental school. “I was specifically interested in orthodontics because of the impact you can have on patients and their self-confidence by giving them a new smile,” he says.

Making children laugh

But there was another strand to his interests, which revealed itself at Dal. During his outreach placement in the North Preston Dental Clinic at Nelson Whynder Elementary School, Papadopoulos discovered that he loved working with children. “I would put on a bit of show during the treatment to help them feel more comfortable and I found that I really enjoyed making kids laugh,” he says.

After Dal, Papadopoulos successfully applied for the single paediatric residency position UBC offers, enabling him to build his skills and to continue to work with families and children. He could have chosen to become a paediatric dentist at this point, but he was still drawn to orthodontics and headed to Western University for a three-year master’s degree.

Free orthodontic treatment through Smiles 4 Canada

Papadopoulos first heard about Smiles 4 Canada, a program started in 2016 that helps young Canadians receive free orthodontic treatment, through Dr. Stephen Roth, who taught in the Faculty of Dentistry at the time and was Papadopoulos’s table clinics supervisor.

Children are selected for treatment based on many factors, including the severity of their malocclusion, such as difficulties with chewing or pain, or issues of self-esteem that are affecting their lives. They also have to write a personal statement about why receiving treatment is important to them and their dentist has to confirm that oral hygiene has not been a problem.

Papadopoulos began volunteering with Smiles 4 Canada when he started working in private practice, but he wanted to do more. So when his friend Dr. Avi Goldberg (DDS’06) stepped down as the Atlantic regional chair of Smiles 4 Canada three years ago, Papadopoulos says he was “honoured” to take on the role.

Atlantic region volunteer orthodontists have helped over 100 families with orthodontic treatment so far, but Papadopoulos wants to encourage more people to apply for the program and for dentists to be aware that they can tell their patients about it.

“I feel there are still a lot of people we can help,” says Papadopoulos. “We continue to have unfilled spots with orthodontists who are willing to provide free treatment. It’s important to spread the word because it helps children who might otherwise not receive care.”

As for his community, Papadopoulos is building a practice – Papadopsmiles Orthodontics – in Quispamsis as part of the new Kennebecasis Valley Professional Centre that opens this fall. He hopes to make a difference as one of the few orthodontists in the area and through volunteering in the community.