Smile Brands Inc. has renewed its commitment to bringing dental services to people around the world, treating 725 people in five impoverished communities in and around Chiang Rai, Thailand on a recent mission trip. The expedition was a continuation of the company’s philanthropic efforts. Last year, a team from Smile Brands went on a similar mission trip to Paraguay where they began their overseas efforts to provide dental care to communities in need.
For a period of six days a team composed of Smile Brands employees including President & CEO, Steve Bilt, and dentists from its affiliated dental practices, was able to provide dental care to the residents of Chiang Rai and surrounding villages, including one day where they treated 185 Thai villagers.
“I think my greatest overall impression was just appreciative all of our patients were,” said one of the participating dentists, Robert Chidester, D.D.S. “Many of these children have nothing. They have never been to the dentist before and had serious dental problems. Even though they were scared, they were extremely cooperative and always showed gratitude when we were finished.”
Dental services to many communities
Chidester was particularly struck by the experience of a nine-year-old girl who would have lost many of her teeth had the Smile Brands team not arrived. They allowed her to continue to smile proudly with a full set of teeth as she grows into adulthood.
“The trip to Thailand was as inspiring and enlightening as our first trip to Paraguay,” says Mr. Bilt. “We have come back with incredible stories and a determination to continue our mission to bring ongoing dental services to as many communities around the world as we can as part of our individual and corporate responsibilities.”
A film crew from Video Resources Inc. volunteered their time and resources to travel with the team to capture video and still footage documenting the experience, which will be used as educational material for future trips. Some still photos from the trip are available, and a video will be posted shortly as well.
In addition to running temporary dental clinics, the Thailand team worked to create a sustainable service model that will allow for the foundation’s locally sponsored teams to continue this care and will be replicated in more communities throughout the world on subsequent dental mission trips.
Exposure to advanced dental training
They left behind dental equipment and exposed local dentists to advanced training to ensure they can continue to provide superior care to their local communities now that the Smile Brands team has returned home.
Steve Bilt served as a dental assistant on the trip, joining dentists Dr. Chidester, Dr. Mazin Alayssami, Dr. Stanley Hong, Dr. Karen Martinez, Dr. Craig Mellor, and Dr. Randy Richardson, and Smile Brands employees Kimberly Chiu, Bill McCarthy, Jaqui Melroe, Debbie Potts, and Stacy Slater.
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The company has already begun planning its next dental mission trip which will be to Ghana in the fall of this year.
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