Top 100: 5 Great efforts to help those in need

March 21, 2012
Stan Goff
Issue 12

These manufacturers, dentists and organizations all go the extra mile to help those in need, whether it be underserved populations or victims of natural disasters. GC America Inc. RESTORE Japan With the company’s 90th anniversary celebration, 2011 was primed to be a special year for GC America.

These manufacturers, dentists and organizations all go the extra mile to help those in need, whether it be underserved populations or victims of natural disasters.

GC America Inc.RESTORE Japan

With the company’s 90th anniversary celebration, 2011 was primed to be a special year for GC America.

But then came the terrible Tõhoku earthquake in March, a 9.0 magnitude quake that is the most powerful known to have ever hit Japan, and one of the five most powerful earthquakes in the world. It triggered extremely destructive tsunami waves that only further added to the destruction and changed the lives of many Japanese people.

With its headquarters in Tokyo, GC America employees back in Illinois wanted to help their counterparts in Japan rebound in any way possible. That’s when Gina Durkin and Monique Dagher Sass of GC America’s marketing department came up with the idea of RESTORE Japan.

The promotional campaign was designed to raise funds to help out in Japan, and it involved dentists purchasing a variety of GC products with special offers and  plenty of backing from publications such as DPR. The promotion involving the company’s operatory products concluded at the end of September, while RESTORE Japan specials for export products run through the end of the year.

“You are talking to the two most passionate girls who really got into it,” Durkin said proudly while talking with Dagher Sass about the successful campaign. “We solicited assistance from our national advertisers. Everybody really, really joined in. I would say 90% of the media said ‘Of course, of course, of course.’”

With GC America known best as a restorative manufacturer, the name RESTORE Japan was a great fit. But the company also added other product lines to the promotion to add to the awareness of the critical cause and to raise as much money as possible to help out those whose lives were changed dramatically by the earthquake.

GC Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer Mr. Makoto Nakao, who was very supportive of the idea, announced that GC would donate to the cause. Fortunately, no GC employees were killed during the earthquake, but many were without power for days.

Durkin said the promotion was such a success that the company was able to provide plenty of support.

Dagher Sass said seeing GC divisions in Europe and Romania follow suit only helped her feel even better about the project.

“Everybody stepped forward and listened to what we had to say because it was such a heart-warming cause,” she said of the planning stages of RESTORE Japan. “We paved the way for this. It’s really a proud moment for Gina and I to be a part of GC.”

Part of the promotion features RESTORE Japan T-Shirts and wristbands, and Mr. Nakao presented a T-Shirt to the president of the Japanese Dental Association, Dr. Mitsuo Okubo.
“We have a lot of Japanese associates here. I was just in a meeting and someone who was wearing a RESTORE Japan wristband,” Durkin said proudly. “With every free good participants also received a Thank You card that was also donated by our printer, and a RESTORE Japan wristband.”

Durkin added that the companies’ facilities also are  operating just fine in Japan and that there was never any concern about any of the products being produced there. “This (quake) really shook up our company,” she said. “We’re based in Tokyo and they were working when this happened, but we were so lucky that none of anybody’s family or any of our associates died.
“And everything’s good (with the manufacturing). One thing you can rest assured is…even prior to the Tsunami…is with such strict regulations to come into our country that there is never anything to worry about with any of our products.”

DEXIS
Haiti - written by Dr. Tom Ritter

My father was a dentist, and as a teenager, I thought there was no way I was going to be what my dad was-I was a “rebel without a clue.” However, even through those rebellious years, I noticed that my father was one of the few people who were actually happy about going to work. I shared a practice with him for two years, and then moved to Baltimore with my wife. Shortly thereafter, I bought a large group practice, and when I got tired of managing it, I ventured out on my own as a solo practitioner. I wanted my new office to reflect all the modern technology that would improve patient care, and that is how I came to choose DEXIS.

In 1997, I became one of the first dentists in the U.S. to own the DEXIS digital x-ray system. Looking back, I know that I made the right choice for me, my staff and my patients. The transition from film to digital radiography for my staff was extremely easy-even my most skeptical employee became a believer after taking two full mouth series of x-rays.

The first words out of our patients’ mouths when they see their images immediately displayed on the screen are “Wow, cool!” Digital x-rays are a time saver-a full series can be taken in four-to-five-minutes. My DEXIS system is the most productive item in the office besides my handpiece. My advice to colleagues who are considering “going digital” is, “Jump in! The water’s fine, and you are never going to look back.”

My wife, who is an OB/GYN, and I always have been interested in helping others lead healthier lives. Over the years, we have provided humanitarian aid to patients from Honduras to Bosnia, and for the past few years, we have been focused on the people of Haiti. We want our efforts to create a sustainable change, so besides caring for its citizens, we also want to educate Haitians to take care of Haitians.

We began our work in Haiti four years ago. Before the earthquake, getting medical and dental care was already difficult; afterward, it was nearly impossible. The mountains in Haiti are quite rugged. To reach those most in need, we drive over an extremely rocky road for a few hours, then walk for three hours to reach our destination-villages with no electricity and no water. Our team sleeps on the ground, waking up to beautiful mountain scenery. We set up clinics with one clean table, one table for sterilization purposes, and some chairs. Having a medical team in town also is a crowd pleaser. Sometimes 500 people or more wait to receive treatment.

DEXIS’ donated sensor allowed us to make better clinical decisions from extractions to diagnosing major pathology issues. The images help us to determine which teeth would be too complicated to remove without the help of a handpiece. Due to the language barrier, our patients can not accurately describe their symptoms, but I can see the whole story on their x-rays. Amidst their broken teeth and multiple abscesses, it assisted me in deciding what to do to get their pain under control. DEXIS provides us with state-of- the-art dentistry in the field. Just because people are poor, that doesn’t mean they should get second-class health care.

The attributes that make DEXIS a favorite in our office also made it an invaluable tool in the field. We rely on dependable and durable equipment. Our suitcase was carried by a Sherpa up a hill, and the sensor had to be able to withstand our rigorous journeys up into the mountains. If our software crashed, there was no access to an IT guy. DEXIS works when we need it to even under very adverse conditions.

When I first visited the dental school in Haiti, I was amazed by the tremendous lack of equipment and supplies. They had three x-ray machines-one was falling off the wall; another was broken. Conditions have improved, thanks to NYU’s donation of 20 new dental chairs and units. The preclinical lab is now used by students practicing their clinical skills on dental manikins where before, the first tooth a student drilled on was in a live human. Forty handpiece units also were installed in their laboratory.

The donation of a DEXIS sensor to the dental school was received with incredible excitement. Before this, they were developing film x-rays in Dixie cups in a glove box and tried to store them the best they could. The students gathered around our laptop computers, totally fascinated by the digital x-rays we had taken that day in the clinic and were very receptive to the knowledge we shared with them about the new system.

In Haiti, our humanitarian missions make a difference. We come in contact with unlicensed local “dentists” in remote areas and try to teach them cold sterilization techniques, as these “dentists,” found everywhere in the world, are some of the biggest transmitters of disease. Some were soaking their instruments in lemon water, believing that was a sufficient enough method to “sterilize” them. We establish oral hygiene programs in schools, bringing toothbrushes and a six-month supply of toothpaste. How can these people spend $30 a year on toothpaste, when that figure often amounts to a family’s entire annual income?

The DEXIS digital system is compatible with our philosophy for patients no matter where they are in the world. It’s comfortable, fast, it respects people’s time, and exposes them to less radiation than conventional film x-rays. The Haitian people need the help of dental and medical communities in any way possible-whether it may be from someone to give a lecture at the dental school, to donate funds or supplies, or in any other creative ways that you can think of. DEXIS has helped us to improve people’s lives here in America, and in areas of the world where people need it so desperately. Amidst the chaos and devastation after the earthquake and even before that, we had found amazing satisfaction in providing medical and dental care. Through digital imaging, DEXIS helped us to bring smiles to the faces of some of the less fortunate in Haiti. For a recent video interview, go to meandmydexis.com.

If you would like to help support the efforts in Haiti through donations of materials and equipment, please go to www.carolandtominhaiti.com.

Helping Hands in Haiti
In a land beset by considerable earthquake damage, political turmoil, and widespread poverty, dental care may take a backseat to other basic needs of Haitian residents. Since 2002, Carmen Dielman, RDH, and Friends of Hu-Friedy member, has traveled to Haiti annually to provide dental care to as many residents as possible.

Dielman was one of 12 dental health professionals who traveled to Crois-des-Bouquets, just northeast of the capital of Port-au-Prince, to work through long days and intense heat to serve the community’s residents. Hu-Friedy, as part of its “Host Nevi Tour,” donated instrumentation to Carmen’s dental mission this year.

Nevi4, the mascot of Hu-Friedy’s Nevi4 instrument, tours the United States, and is hosted by Friends of Hu-Friedy (visit facebook.com/nevi4). Dielman requested that Nevi accompany her on this year’s dental mission trip to Haiti, anticipating that the town’s children would enjoy his visit and how he would occupy the children during their wait for dental care.

In an interview with Hu-Friedy, Dielman described the workdays: “It was getting up early, trying to get 12 people ready for the day, have our breakfast, and then we’d get in this great big truck that looked like a huge circus cage!” She continued, “The truck would take us to the site, which was located in a church building, and we’d set up every morning. We were working out of our suitcases and with lawn chairs on cement blocks.”

The temperature often hit 95ºF, and “you have on gloves, goggles, a mask and you’re behind a head lamp. The heat was intense,” said Dielman, “but at the same time, the people who came would literally wait on benches all day long.” The line would form before they arrived in the morning, and the last patient of the day would have likely waited the entire day to be seen. “That was our motivation to keep going,” she continued. “Yes, they were long, hard days, but they were so worth it.”

Over the course of their visit, the dental team cared for 463 patients. Dielman said that included 363 scalings and root planings, 148 extractions, 68 composite restorations, 10 amalgams, and 19 sealants.

Her biggest concern was that adults comprised the overwhelming proportion of patients and too few children were brought to them for care. Dielman said, “[The parents] don’t realize the value of receiving dental care at a young age, so there’s a significant need for dental education.”

As Dielman anticipated, Nevi was a hit with the children and with the dental team as well. “All the little kids would laugh, smile and want to hold him,” Dielman said. Team members also took pictures of each other with Nevi. “Nevi kept things light, and it helped us kid around during the trip,” she said. Furthermore, the donated Nevi scalers that accompanied the team on its mission were equally appreciated, considering the layers of hardened plaque that builds up on patients whose dental care is less than optimal.

For more pictures of Nevi in Haiti, visit facebook.com/nevi4. To follow Nevi on all his adventures, join Friends of Hu-Friedy for free at friendsofhu-friedy.com.

The Dental Mission Project
Dr. Doug Nielsen and his colleagues can only do so much, but fortunately for the many people in dire need of dental care, The Dental Mission Project Society is there to do all that it can.
The Richmond, British Columbia dentist, along with plenty of support from manufacturers, fellow volunteer dental care providers and his wife, Susan, travels around the world to provide free dental care to those in need.

“We set up The Dental Mission Project Society to provide mobile dental equipment and supplies to local volunteer dental teams for dental mission work locally and throughout the world,” he said.

The organization in conducted a Philippines Dental Mission Trip in 2011, a First Nations Communities outreach program, and multiple local programs to provide free dental care with the help of dental students from the University of British Columbia (UBC) Dentistry.

After serving with other organizations providing care to Central America, Dr. Nielsen became all too familiar with the difficulty surrounding acquiring dental supplies and equipment and transporting them to use on trips.

But with the support of Patterson Dental Supply, the mission trips have become a major success, helping hundreds of patients on each visit.

“I was on various trips to Central America, to places like Guatemala, with another group,” he said. “Always the problem was equipment and supplies.”

But Dr. Nielsen worked with Tammy Carrillo, the widow of a dentist in British Columbia, to put the late dentist’s A-dec portable equipment to good use, and Patterson Dental Supply stepped up with an offer to maintain the equipment as well as to provide supplies at cost and to help coordinate donated supplies and services. SciCan provided a steam sterilizer and Patterson set up a program to receive products and supplies from local trade shows such as the Pacific Dental Conference. “A lot of the suppliers would open up boxes of supplies and then of course they can’t sell it after that,” he said. “They give it to us and we put it to good use. All donations for any of these projects can go to UBC Dentistry (dentistry.ubc.ca)”

The university provides tax receipts and uses a portion of the donations to help with airfare costs, supplies, and for an endowment to UBC Dentistry that is used each year on Dean’s Night to award a student for community service.

Dr. Nielsen is a part-time faculty member at UBC, and he and his wife organize some of the community outreach projects that the university and students are involved in. Susan also organizes the sterilization process on trips.  

“This year I took a group of 10 fourth-year and third-year dental students over to First Nations Community and we provided free dental care,” he said. “The students did the work while a number of my colleagues and I helped out and we mentored the students.”

Another outreach program provided a Vancouver Free Dental Day in September where students treated the local population, and another similar project is planned in January. Also in 2012, The Dental Mission Project will return to Vietnam where the local government is arranging for space in a new dental hospital that the volunteers will be able to use.

The projects are very rewarding, but they’re exhausting and the need is more than the volunteers currently can handle. But that’s not going to stop the group from helping all it can.

“Oh my gosh, certainly the need outstrips the time, money and resources available to service the local people,” Dr. Nielsen said. “But it is very rewarding. Over a three year period we established a permanent dental clinical in San Juan la Laguna, Guatemala to service the 12,000 residents of the region. For instance, in Guatemala, when you graduate from dental school you have to work for the government for 10 months, so we had a series of three new graduate dentists come to the clinic. One young lady dentist came through, loved the area and helping the people, she stayed.”

For three years now the volunteers have packed up their four sets of A-dec dental portable dental equipment and supplies-all packaged in 50-pound containers so they can be checked in to the airplane-and then use the carry-ons for their clothing.

At a recent trip to an inner city school in Mexico, a local dentist and his wife helped the 10 volunteers with translation and care, and 180 children and teachers received free dentistry, including root canals. In a normal week-long trip to Guatemala, the group will rotate four dentists through and treat as many as 500 people, including a hygiene chair using a portable Cavitron.
In an effort to educate as well as treat, The Dental Mission Project exchanged soccer equipment with a Central American community on one trip for the ability to set up a brushing and flossing station at a school.

For more information or to make donations, visit the website or contact Dr. Nielsen via email at DougNielsen@shaw.ca.

DDS4KidsDental Relief Organization
For almost 20 years, Dr. Lan Jones has led teams of volunteers to remote villages of Vietnam, providing free dental services to children and adults living in deep poverty. Her motto is, “We go where no team has ever-never been.” Dr. Jones founded DDS4Kids dental relief humanitarian organization after doing extensive volunteer dentistry in Africa and Asia. The team is getting ready to return to Vietnam in February and will travel to remote villages along the mighty Mekong River. This will be the ninth year that DDS4Kids teams serve the children and adults in the Mekong Delta, where the population is mostly farmers and fishermen who subsist on the land and sea/river.

What makes DDS4Kids unique is they do more than provide the much needed dental treatment to rural communities. DDS4Kids is the only humanitarian organization that takes dental services to distant villages, and has established on-going dental education to elementary school children since 1996. Unlike other dental relief organizations, DDS4Kids puts tremendous effort into disease prevention through dental health education programs aimed at children in elementary schools from pre-K to 8th grades, as well as pregnant women and families with young children from birth through 5 years old. Prevention has to be the goal of health relief volunteers, and community empowerment through education has to be the most important effort of all.

DDS4Kids is a state and federal licensed non-profit health organization with no paid staff, only life-long volunteers. If you wish to go on “the road less traveled,” please sign up on the DDS4Kids website. Volunteer dentists and non-dental personnel are always needed. If you cannot join the team but would like to be part of this worthwhile effort, you can make monetary donations as well as donate dental supplies for the teams and school supplies for the children. More information can be found on dds4kids.org.