Kirk Tegelaar is about to endure six months of oral surgeries that will include pulling and reshaping the teeth that are uncomfortably crowding his mouth.
But the Somerville resident, who goes strictly by the nickname of “Skunk,” isn’t concerned. He’s basking in the generosity of the strangers who donated thousands of dollars to fund the procedures.
“Each time I go to the dentist, I’ll be smiling the whole time,” said Skunk, a freelance welder who also builds custom bicycles at a Watertown shop. “I just feel so great. I feel like people are really helping me out.”
Skunk, 45, has had serious problems with his teeth since he was 7 years old.
He went through years of failed attempts to fix them — headgear, jaw-expanders, braces, and surgeries — and paid skyrocketing costs.
Eventually, as he grew older and his teeth continued to shift, he accepted that he was doomed to a life of oral misery.
“It was such a lost cause,” he said. “Not only was it painful, but it was depressing on top of it.”
But when two friends in January stepped up and created an online fundraiser to help him achieve the smile of his dreams, donations poured in.
The community rallied and raised $17,000 for Skunk’s surgeries by April. Now the pot has reached a whopping $28,844 — enough for Skunk to forge ahead with the needed procedures.
On Wednesday, Skunk will sit through the first of four major visits with Dr. Stephen Matarazzo, a dentist in Quincy who has been meeting with him regularly.
“We’ve been studying this case for two or three months,” Matarazzo said. “I was honored that I was asked to be involved.”
“There is no plan that will give him an ideal movie-star smile,” he said. “But he is going to look good, and he is going to be happy.”
There’s still a long road ahead. Whatever the outcome, Skunk says, he will share the results with the people who supported him through his dental travails.
“My smile belongs to the community,” Skunk said. “I’m just going to have to show it to everybody a lot more often. It’s not mine.”Steve Annear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.