Free dental care is wondrous. Free dental care and caring for orphaned children, as Dr. Angela Cotey does, is special indeed.
Travel, the aphorism says, can change your life. It certainly transformed Dr. Angela Cotey’s: A physical-therapy student during her first year at Marquette University in Milwaukee, she went on a mission trip under its auspices that led her instead down the path toward dentistry—and a life hallmarked by a boundless humanitarian instinct.
Throughout that trip, to Kingston, Jamaica, Dr. Cotey helped dental students and professors as they provided free dental care to needy locals.
She recently told Incisal Edge dental lifestyle magazine:
“I saw them change people’s lives by relieving pain, treating infections and providing compassionate care,” Dr. Cotey says. “I immediately fell in love with the profession.”
She has since enjoyed a varied career, beginning in the U.S. Navy, working later at a large Wisconsin group practice and ultimately buying her own small practice, Village Smile Care, in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, where she has been for the last seven years. In 2014, Dr. Cotey was honored as one of America’s best young dentists, Incisal Edge 40 Under 40. Subsequent mission trips to Jamaica, Honduras and Haiti were all highly worthwhile, she notes, but they took valuable time and focus away from her private practice. Her humanitarian passions still aflame, then, she began to think how best she could give back locally.
Her first efforts came with Touched Twice, a Christian organization that provides medical care to the needy at several events each year, and More Smiles Wisconsin, a clinic through which dentists volunteer with the Salvation Army.
She took it up a notch, though, when a friend introduced her to Before 16, a local nonprofit that promotes hosting of orphaned children from around the world.
“Several families in our area hosted and even adopted orphans from overseas,” Dr. Cotey says, “and found that many of the kids had severe dental needs, living day to day with dental infection and pain.”
She began donating her own services, even hosting for 16 weeks a child who was interested in a career in dentistry (shown at top). One patient in particular stood out: a teenage boy with a supernumerary front tooth that made him embarrassed to smile. “After he had the tooth extracted, the next time I saw him he had a huge smile and seemed to come out of his shell,” Dr. Cotey says. “It was so touching to see how much it had helped him.”
In total, she has helped deliver more than $15,000 worth of free dental work to those in need. “Before 16 is like bringing a global mission trip to your community,” she says. “I’ve met some of the most amazing, selfless people through these groups. Every time I volunteer, I get more out of the experience than I give. It’s so rewarding.”
Want to host an orphan or donate dental care?
To donate, or if you’re interested in hosting an orphan, please visit Before16.org or P143.org for more information. If you’d like to inquire further about donating dental care in your area, email Dr. Cotey at email@example.com.