The dentist to population ratio in Ethiopia, Africa is 1 : 300,000.
Research findings from various countries in West Africa indicate that over 94% of the population above 40 years of age suffer from periodontal disease in various degrees of severity.
When founding A Reason to Smile (ARTS) in 2014, Dr. Gunther Heyder set a goal of reaching at least one region of the continent every year to alleviate the suffering caused by dental disease.
In just two years, the grassroots organization, relying primarily on individual donations and committed volunteers, has completed three successful trips to Africa in addition to partnering with a nonprofit clinic in Nicaragua.
“We have an amazing trip coming up in December to Uganda, a trip that we hope to treat and teach hundreds if not thousands of locals,” said Dr. Heyder, (shown on a recent school visit demonstrating proper oral hygiene techniques to the local youth).
Throughout his studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry, Dr. Heyder took advantage of multiple opportunities to study and volunteer in Africa. His experiences in Ghana, Malawi, and Togo inspired him to establish ARTS to work toward improving the dental health of communities across the African continent.
Today, the practicing dentist in the Outer Banks, North Carolina area guides the nonprofit organization using a three-pronged approach of dental care, education, and supplies. The aim: to empower people in these communities to attain and maintain a higher level of dental health and prevent the spread of dental disease.
On each trip, Dr. Heyder and the team will provide people in multiple communities with clinical services ranging from cleanings to extractions. Patients will also receive information about the importance and techniques of proper oral hygiene and infection control, as well as desperately needed products such as toothbrushes.
While the mission of ARTS is focused on dental care, you do not need to be a dental professional to help the cause or even volunteer on an ARTS trip.
“ARTS is actively looking for dentists for our upcoming trip to Uganda, December 8-18, 2016, and always welcome applications from dental staff as well as non-dental professionals,” said Dr. Heyder.
“During our trip, we will have six full days of dentistry, seeing a variety of ages but mostly adults. Treatment will mostly consist of extractions, helping to rid these people of emergent pain and infection; however, we would love to have a hygienist present to provide cleanings and will definitely have educators to provide dental hygiene instructions to the local students. At this time, we are especially looking for dentists to volunteer,” he added.
Get involved today by donating, volunteering, contacting A Reason To Smile (ARTS), and learning more about the state of dental health in Africa: http://www.areasontosmile.co/get_involved