A Cambridge University professor once admonished his MBA graduating class that as investment bankers they would go out into the world and would do well in their lives ... but, he asked, “How many of you will do good?”
As dentists, we are in a position to make a comfortable life for ourselves. Those of us in private practice often justify our high fees by figuring how much we have to spend on lab costs, staff salaries, OSHA requirements, continuing-education mandates, or whatever, sometimes forgetting what a sacrifice our patients make just to step into our offices. And what about those unfortunate people who just can’t scrape together the money to even get to the dentist? How many of us think about those people?
To be fair, most of us do some pro bono dentistry. In fact, women dentists do far more than their male colleagues. At AAWD, we offer a way to give back to the community in a way that not only makes you feel good as a dentist that you are “doing good,” but helps the entire community. I am speaking about our Smiles For Success program, the charitable foundation of AAWD. The goal of treatment through Smiles For Success is to help women help themselves to get off welfare. After all, how can you go for a job interview if you can’t smile? Our Smiles For Success candidates come to us from various programs all over the country. Most are affiliated with clothing charities that provide suitable clothes in which to interview and then dress for work. In addition, these women attend various classes that teach them how to answer phones, show up for work on time, budget their time and money, and in general, prepare for a life of work rather than a life of dependency.
Dentists who participate in Smiles For Success have an opportunity to really change another individual’s life. In teaching our SFS patients how to care for their teeth, we not only help them to get a job but, hopefully, to go on to a life of better oral health as they get on their feet financially. We teach them to value proper dental care. Many of these patients have grown up in families where dental care is not valued. As children, many were taken to the dentist only when in pain. As a result, these women are often fearful and can present quite a challenge for the treating dentist. But the challenge turns into reward when we see how much the patients end up appreciating our efforts and how motivated they become to keep their pretty smiles. Unless you’ve participated, it is hard to describe just how good this feels.
We need more volunteers all over the country. If you can, please contact our central office at SmilesForSuccess.org. If there isn’t a Smiles For Success chapter in your area, why not start one? You will be doing yourself and your community a favor. Incidentally, volunteering will only cost you time and treatment supplies. The lab fees have already been generously donated by Bonadent Laboratory, our platinum sponsor.
If you don’t feel up to offering free treatment, you can help by volunteering to raise money for the program. AAWD has teamed up with Dental Boot Kamp’s Smiles for Life charity to raise funds for both organizations in a unique program that will be a win/win for participating dentists as well as the charities we support. It works like this: Discus Dental has generously donated home-bleaching materials to our charities for our individual dentists to sponsor bleaching parties in their communities. Patients old and new are invited to come to our offices to get fitted for bleaching trays at a fee that is less than the prevailing rate in the community. The patient then pays the fee directly to Smiles for Life rather than the treating dentist. The patients get a bargain because their cost for bleaching is cheaper than it would be otherwise, and the dentist wins by getting free PR in her community. Hopefully, these new patients will decide to stay with her office for additional dental work.
So whether you decide to become a treating SFS volunteer or a fund-raising volunteer, please join us. We need you, and we appreciate whatever you can do.
This is my last column as AAWD president. I had thought of talking about all of the wonderful changes that have happened in AAWD over the past two years, but instead, I decided to speak about Smiles For Success because I feel so passionately about it. As we go into the holiday season, we can get so wrapped up in our day-to-day activities that we forget our core values. Don’t. There is no greater joy in life than giving to others. The gifts of time and caring are far more valuable than any present you could buy. I wish you all a very happy and fulfilling holiday season.
Jean Furuyama, DDS, FAGD