How to Not Hate the Dentist

by Dr. Rob Strain, DDS AAACD

Even dentists can hate the dentist. Some of my most challenging patients have been fearful dentists. Fortunately, our profession has come a long way in the last 50 years. More powerful topical anesthetics, gentle injection techniques, sedation that has amnesic properties, dental lasers and faster, quieter drills have made a huge difference. More and more patients say, “I love my dentist!”

But there is a reason I love dentists. Most all of them give back. There are a number of local, national and international organizations that allow dentists and dental auxiliaries to get out of their own world and into the world of service to others.

Locally, Arizona SonShine provides free medical and dental services to the underserved. Large clinics are set up for weekend service in Payson (March), Prescott Valley (June) and Mesa (August). Lines are long for those seeking medical and dental care that consists primarily of immunizations, exams and emergency services. More information is at arizonasonshine.com.

Rebuilding America’s Warriors (RAW) is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to help rebuild veterans who have been facially disfigured during their service. Plastic surgeons and dental specialists contribute their services. This includes dental treatment for disease created by a combination of dry desert conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan and use of aids such as chewing gum that combated the dry mouth. The combination of dry mouth and sugar is not a good one. More information is at rebuildingamericaswarriors.com.

Give Back a Smile is an organization run by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Volunteer members treat those who have suffered through sexual assault or domestic violence and have dental disease, further contributing to additional feelings of insecurity. Information is available at aacd.com/applyforGBAS.

The American Dental Association’s Give Kids a Smile program and America’s Tooth Fairy are organizations that provide services, mostly in inner cities, to needy children:adafoundation.org/en/give-kids-a-smile.

Ayuda International is one of a number of dental programs centered on encouraging dental health for the underserved. Services are provided primarily throughout Southern California, Mexico and Latin America. Currently, it is easier to provide services across the border to fly-in locations as driving across the border has resulted in attempted confiscation of equipment and vehicles. Information is available at ayudaint.org.

Perhaps the largest international organization is Doctors Without Borders. This organization responds to humanitarian crises, but also provides care, including dental care, to underserved third world countries. More information is at doctorswithoutborders.org.

Many other international organizations exist, often through individual local churches or national denominations.

To combat the limitations of once-a-year service to remote third world villages, Healthcare Mobilization is an organization devoted to training local talent to provide emergency services throughout the year. More information is at healthcaremobilization.org.

I am proud of my profession and what we do to change lives, both here and abroad. Many dentists quietly provide pro bono work in their own offices for selected needs. Knowing how dentists give back you might just want to tell your dentist, “Thanks for giving back AND thanks for treating me gently!”

Dr. Rob Strain is the author of “More Smile for Less $$$” and “Add Life to Your Smile.” He maintains a practice in Prescott and can be reached through his website at robstrain.com.