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“Sometimes We Meet an Angel”

Feb. 1, 2007
Throughout our lives, we cross paths with many people. Most are mere acquaintances who leave no lasting impression on us.
Adina Ness, RDH, brings dental care to needy children in Romania.
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by Dainne D. Glasscoe, RDH, BS

Throughout our lives, we cross paths with many people. Most are mere acquaintances who leave no lasting impression on us. However, sometimes we are privileged to meet a very special person who leaves us feeling as if we have been in the presence of ... an angel.

I first met Adina Ness, RDH, in 2003 when I presented a lecture titled “The Consummate Dental Hygienist” in Wisconsin. At the lunch break, she began to share information with me about her work with the needy children of Romania, her native country. As she talked, I was struck by her passion, and the words behind her soft-spoken, gentle accent touched me. Right after lunch, I asked Adina to share a little about her work with our group. I invited my attendees to donate dental supplies to help with the effort to bring dental care to hurting children.

Adina is a licensed dentist in Romania. She has been in the United States for six years, but her dental education is not recognized here. However, she did go to dental hygiene school and now works as a dental hygienist in this country.

The harsh reality of Romania

Communist rule kept Romania isolated from the Western World for almost a half a century. When average Americans think about Romania, they remember watching spectacular gymnasts on television during the Olympics, or maybe the legend of Dracula (Dracula’s fourteenth-century castle is the most popular tourist site in Romania). An even fewer number of people might remember the ruthless 22-year dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu, which drove one of the most prosperous countries in Europe to the brink of economic ruin. His reign ended in a revolution in 1989, but the country has been slow to recover. Ceausescu’s palace, the second largest building in the world (after the Pentagon) has more than 3,000 rooms and is now home to the Romanian Parliament.

Adina came from a poor background, but she considers herself to be rich as a result of the wonderful spiritual heritage of her parents - a story worth being retold and remembered. Her father was the director of an orphanage, so she knows first-hand that “suffering is never more acutely felt than when seen in the eyes of children, eyes that have seen more tears in a few years than any human should bear in a lifetime.” Adina’s father lost his father when he was 11 years old. He was shot by the communist authorities on an Easter Sunday morning on the way to church, leaving six children behind.

Offering dental care to children in Romania in an operatory with limited supplies.
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Trying to overcome almost a half century of communism, dictatorship, and extreme centralization, the socio-economic situation of the country has a long and tangled path. Poverty has grown rapidly during the transition period. Wages and the budget for health and dental care are among the lowest in Europe. In the public dental clinics, the equipment is outdated and worn out, and the demand for dental instruments and equipment is urgent.

Even in this environment, Adina was determined to spread hope. After communism failed while she was a full-time dental student, Adina had an inspirational radio show called “Traveling Toward Your Heart.” She remembers, “I was trying to dispel suffering and loneliness in the hearts of people and promote health as well.”

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Adina states that what is needed most is the implementation of oral health prevention. Preventive dentistry in Romania is almost nonexistent. She says the second most needed thing is nonsurgical periodontal therapy. There are no hygienists in Romania, and the work that dentists do is primarily pain relief/emergency work. There are no specialties of endodontics or periodontics, and general dentists are expected to do everything. Additionally, most dentists work with no assistants since they cannot afford to pay them. Often, there is no anesthetic for restorative dentistry and no water for the high-speed handpiece. Adina says they use the old “rinse and spit, please” method. If the patient requires radiographs, he or she has to go to an “X-ray office,” as they do not have chairside X-ray machines.

Sponsorship for Adina

Adina first came to the United States as a dental intern and was sponsored by Dr. Theresa Gardocki, a volunteer providing dental care to the institutionalized children in Romania. Dr. Gardocki said she realizes “that I could have easily been one of the oppressed people if my grandfather hadn’t chosen to leave Romania. In the United States, I had opportunity.”

Cover from Adina’s CD.
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While in the United States, Adina met her future husband, Richard. However, she returned to Romania to finish her schooling, all the while wondering about the “halfway around the world” romance. Eventually, they got married and now live in Wisconsin where Adina is licensed in dental hygiene. She works in the office of Drs. Joe and Tom Ganshert and is thrilled to be part of their team. Adina says the dentistry they do is “the highest standard I have ever seen of professionalism and care in dentistry. I am thankful for them.” She is also thankful for the efforts of Dr. Lynn and Joan Colip and Rev. Roger Olsen “who are walking together with me on the path of giving and selflessness.”

Adina’s work

Adina has been going to Romania to work once a year, but year-round she lends assistance to a Romanian dentist who provides dental care as long as Adina provides the materials, the necessary instruments, and equipment. Her “oral health project,” called R.O.A.D.S. of Hope (R.O.A.D.S. stands for Romanian Outreach and Dental Services) provides free dental care to poor children in orphanages, both preventive and restorative, especially in the rural areas.

Adina, her husband Richard, and their two children.
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“Seeing all the needs, especially the children’s oral health status, I wanted to make a difference. It isn’t just about fixing their teeth. It is improving their ability to eat, sleep, play, be healthier, be happier, and live happier in a place of broken dreams. I will never forget a 3-year-old girl. I could make out every bone in her little body through the loose bag that was her skin, her mouth full of broken and rotted teeth. As Mother Teresa once said, sometimes we feel that what we do is just a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less without the missing drop.”

Additionally, Adina has created a CD to raise money for dental supplies and equipment to send to Romania. The CD is a compilation of selected scriptures being read by Adina with beautiful piano background music. She shares the impetus for doing the CD:

“Being in the United States, an ocean apart from my family and knowing my mother was in the terminal stages of pancreatic cancer, I wanted to travel toward her heart and record something for her to listen to. My words seemed to be inadequate. No words of mine were powerful enough. A passage from Psalm 119 came to mind: ‘Your Word, oh Lord, is eternal, it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations, you established the earth, and it endures.’ So I recorded a collection of Scriptures related to healing and faith. I believe this could be a good spiritual resource for anybody struggling with a health need or other type of crisis.

“Historians say that the person who left the most permanent impression on history is Jesus. I believe those scriptures about him, walking among the people, changing destinies, giving new horizons of faith, hope, and healing, making it real to us that He truly knows what we are going through from personal experience. He lived here once, and He understands what being human means.”

If you are interested in purchasing a CD, you can send Adina an e-mail at [email protected]. The price is $12. Its real worth is priceless! Her Web site is

Final thoughts from Adina

“Not all of us are called to do dentistry over the oceans, but thinking that our life is a fragment of an eternal existence, it deserves a high and noble objective and goal. When we do our work as beautifully as we can with respect and devotion, it’s more than touching teeth. It’s touching souls, touching lives, making the world a better place. Let no patient come to you without leaving happier. We are all like a big family, and we hold each other’s fragile hopes in our hands. In the presence of hope, faith is born. In the presence of faith, love becomes real, and in the presence of love, miracles happen.”

Words fitly spoken by an angel - thanks for your heart, Adina Ness, RDH!

Dianne D. Glasscoe, RDH, BS, is a professional speaker, writer, and consultant to dental practices across the United States. She is CEO of Professional Dental Management, based in Frederick, Md. To contact Glasscoe for speaking or consulting, call (301) 874-5240 or e-mail [email protected]. Visit her Web site at