Posted on 6th January 2022
Richard’s involvement in volunteering began with a local hockey club he had sponsored for many years. “This led to me offering to make mouthguards for a visiting Sri Lankan masters ladies hockey team,” he recalls. “They had never worn mouthguards before and descended on our practice en masse for the impressions. We had wonderful time helping out some very funny and grateful patients.”
This rewarding experience with the hockey club motivated Richard to investigate further volunteering options. “The hockey-player experience gave the practice some great feel-good vibes for a week, so I thought it would also be good to try and help some needy locals out and recreate some of the feelgood that we experienced,” he says. “I reached out to Andrea Paterson at ADHF, who was very helpful and guided us through the next steps.”
Richard and his practice helped a patient via the Adopt a Patient program last year, and recently treated a patient via the Rebuilding Smiles program. Richard says the treatment was very basic, involving extractions, a clean, and providing dentures (courtesy of Oceanic Dental Laboratory), and the patients were both very grateful.
“Both patients had experienced significant trauma in their lives and had badly neglected oral health,” he says. “They were both embarrassed about the state of their mouths and had low self-esteem but were able to put that aside and trust us to help them.
“The patients were very respectful and grateful for their treatment. I like to think that they left feeling happier and more optimistic.”
For Richard, volunteering is enormously satisfying.
“One patient felt more presentable and therefore confident being able to attend for job interviews and the other was able to raise the first smile I had seen from her,” he says. “I realise that these patients’ lives will not be totally turned around by this dental treatment, but perhaps it’s just one small change that helps them move on to a better place.
“Volunteering takes me away from the usual stressors of being a dentist and running a small business and reminds me of the other things outside of my little work bubble.”
For other dentists thinking about putting their hand up to volunteer, Richard recommends the experience. “Definitely take the step to help another human being,” he says. “It will give you back more than it takes.”
If you or your practice is interested in being part of the Rebuilding Smiles program, please contact ADHF WA State Coordinator, Andrea Paterson, firstname.lastname@example.org