“I had about three moments when I broke down thinking, ‘what I gave them today is a mere fraction of what they need’ …but then I remembered how happy they were despite their circumstances. Even though I couldn’t completely change their lives, I could provide the basic care and pain relief that every human being deserves access to.” Karen Phillips, Ultradent’s director of US sales, who is also a former dental assistant, reflects on a dental humanitarian trip she took with the Crown Council’s “Smiles for Life” campaign, a cause Ultradent supports.
During the eight-day trip to the Dominican Republic, the group traveled to increasingly remote and less fortunate areas each day, providing dental work ranging from basic hygiene to restorations, extractions, and even the occasional root canal. A charity based in the Dominican Republic, Esperanza, helped direct the Crown Council group to the areas with the most need.
Of the conditions in which the group worked, Karen recalls, “It was so hot there that the little metallic threads in my socks melted to my toenail polish and I had to peel them off—and that’s nothing compared to the people who travelled so far to come see us and were waiting in the blistering heat to get care.”
She continues, “It’s challenging, but rewarding—at the end of the day they’re smiling at you.” Karen recounts, “I experienced two patients who had lost a front tooth (they were young people), and after getting the teeth replaced and seeing themselves in the mirror—the expressions on their faces were priceless. This meant a whole new future for them because without teeth, they couldn’t work in a resort or a hotel or a restaurant or any place besides the sugar cane fields. That little bit of dental work could change this person’s life! It represents hope for them.”
Karen says the most difficult part of the journey was inevitably…leaving. “One group on our final day walked 8 miles in the 90-degree heat, 100% humidity to get dental care. There were people lined up that we just didn’t have time to see and that broke my heart. I hope that they get the care they need when the next dental group comes through.”
The Crown Council returns to the Dominican Republic three times a year to continue providing basic dental care to those in need. To help support the Crown Council, or to get involved, please visit crowncouncil.com