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Editor’s Note

March 1, 2010
As always, the dental industry responded immediately in the wake of a tragedy. This time, it was the earthquake that ravaged Haiti.

As always, the dental industry responded immediately in the wake of a tragedy. This time, it was the earthquake that ravaged Haiti. In the days and weeks that followed the devastation in Haiti, I received numerous press releases about companies within the dental industry that were making a difference with their donations. Not surprisingly, one of the first releases I received detailed Henry Schein’s lightning-fast response, which was similar to their actions following 9/11, Katrina, and other disasters. Some of the other releases I received included….

  • DentaQuest donating dental hygiene products to World Vision to distribute to children in Haiti.
  • The Eco-Dentistry Association™ coordinating a relief effort with Discus Dental, Preserve, and Pure Life Dental to get thousands of dental supplies to Haiti through Heart to Heart International.
  • Ivoclar Vivadent AG contributing 300,000 Swiss francs to a fundraising campaign organized by the Red Cross organization of the Principality of Liechtenstein.
  • SmartPractice partnering with MAP International and Project C.U.R.E., including a donation of $31,000 in gloves.
  • Ultradent launching a voluntary program to provide employees with the option of donating funds to the American Red Cross for Haiti relief. The company matched employee donations with a dollar-for-dollar contribution.

Granted, there were many, many donations from the dental industry … and many will remain anonymous. The work you have done in Haiti is to be commended, and I know that the next time a tragedy strikes somewhere in the world, our industry will once again rise to the challenge.

But there’s more to doing good than just responding to a crisis. Every day, there are good things done by your companies that deserve to be applauded just as much as the response to Haiti. One example is the recent Give Kids A Smile outreach that just keeps growing and growing. Another happened a little more quietly in my hometown of Tulsa, Okla., in early February.

Over the course of two days, the Oklahoma Mission of Mercy treated 1,805 patients and performed 6,997 procedures. Those are some staggering numbers … but maybe even more staggering is the estimate that more than 660,000 Oklahomans do not have health or dental insurance. With those numbers, people began lining up outside the Tulsa Convention Center the morning before the clinic opened to make sure they could be seen.

“I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to get dental help when there’s none available anywhere else,” one participant said.

That statement hit me in the heart. We’re often so anxious to get behind mission trips to other countries when there is so much need right here at home. We’re thrilled about flying to destinations around the globe to help people in need, when we don’t have to travel far at all to find people in need. It may not be as exciting to help those in need who are five miles from us instead of 5,000, but I think it’s time that we adjusted our priorities a touch. It’s time that we all realize that while the economy may be improving, there are still many Americans who are hurting. In a land of plenty (and in an industry of plenty), maybe it’s time we all take a look together at what we could do to help in our own communities so people don’t have to camp out overnight just so they can have an abscessed tooth examined.

Yes, I can hear the arguments already and I can see your eyes rolling. There aren’t enough dental workers, you think. Where would the money come from, you ask. Why don’t these people get a job instead of camping out all night for free dental work, you wonder. I know these are the thoughts that most will have, because they’re the same questions that were asked on chat boards affiliated with the Oklahoma Mission of Mercy outreach. Even in hard times, we’re a society that is sometimes quicker to point a finger than to lend a hand.

One of my favorite movies is “Dave,” starring Kevin Kline. At one point in the movie, Kline’s character (who looks just like the president of the United States and ends up acting as the president when the real president has a stroke) says in a press conference, “It’s not about the paycheck. It’s about respect. It’s about looking in the mirror and knowing that you’ve done something valuable with your day. And if one person could start to feel this way, and then another person, and then another person, soon all these other problems may not seem so impossible. You don’t really know how much you can do until you stand up and decide to try.”

My friends, it’s time we decide to try to help Americans who are in need. Let’s figure out how together.

Read on … this is your magazine.