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Meet the care partner making international waves in oral health: Global Dental Relief

Meet the care partner making international waves in oral health: Global Dental Relief

There’s 1 dentist for every 200,000 mouths – or 120 providers for the some 24,000,000 Nepalese calling the country home.

Imagine, you’re shuffling your way along the road of life, munching on something yummy perhaps, when you feel it – that unmistakable zing near an upper molar. Maybe you’ve felt it more than once in recent weeks.

Is it a fluke? Karma from all the fall goodies over the past month? You pop on your proactive cap, set a reminder to schedule a consultation and roll on from there.

Now imagine it’s 2001. You’re in Nepal, where you’re living, with the same tooth pain, though this time there’s 1 dentist for every 200,000 mouths – or 120 providers for the some 24,000,000 Nepalese calling the country home.

That’s the challenge Laurie Matthews found waiting for her in the capital of Kathmandu, where she set out that year to launch the fledgling care initiative that would in time become Global Dental Relief. As an organizer, Matthews recognized the impossibility this care barrier presented – where there were so few care providers and so many mouths requiring care.

An operation takes blossom

Matthews zoned the org’s focus around childhood prevention, coordinating with local schools across Nepal’s capital, treating kids while supplying toothbrushes and complimentary education that would help shape oral care for a lifetime.

Since that date, Global Dental Relief has expanded care operations into Vietnam, Lei, Guatemala, Kenya, Cambodia, Mexico and Appalachia. All with the same operative model: Show the value of oral care early on and prevent the complications from happening.

As of 2013 more than 2,600 volunteers have provided over $35 million in donated care to more than 170,000 children. And it’s a cause that can’t help but keep growing. Volunteer demand remains high as ever among providers, as trips are often booked to capacity.

Note: General volunteers comprise something like 60% of GDR’s helper base, for all the non-dentists looking to go abroad for a great cause.

And while spending time along the warm, breezy edens of Akumal, Mexico – their latest operation – might have something to do with it, we are only left to wonder: What exactly animates this greater drive to give back? And how might we as a community of caregivers further that reach for the holiday season ahead?

Shaping care from the ground-up

For Matthews and her team, it was being able to build out care capabilities that previously weren’t there for communities. Even if growth could only advance one school, one class, one student at a time – the privilege of effecting big change with such a fundamentally simple yet necessary service is what has sustained Global Dental Relief and kept them expanding “one child at a time” across four major continents.

Their unflinching commitment to making essential care widely available and their passion for showing others that healthy habits make the difference are at the root of our ongoing partnership with them.

That’s why for Giving Tuesday this year – the 28th – we’re directing $10 from any site-wide purchase of $50+ to further Global Dental Relief’s mission as they ready upcoming operations for Cambodia, Guatemala and Kenya.

Putting gratitude into gear

A hop across the world to teach the wonders of quality teeth brushing may not be tenable for many right now. (Sigh, we dream on.) But that doesn’t mean there aren’t real impacts to be made here at home with the holiday season now before us!

If you’re looking to give back but aren’t sure how – You might consider focusing between community or cause-driven needs. Or maybe you have valuable skills or insight that could greatly benefit an organization that already has your heart?

With Giving Tuesday nearly here, the coming weeks up till January will be the busiest time of year for NGOs and nonprofits.

If you’re wanting to practice being more grateful – Beyond the ceremonial pre-meal act of giving thanks with family each year, consider journaling what it is you’re grateful for or write letters (they don’t have to be sent) to all the beloveds who’ve helped make your life the distinction it is!

There are some pretty notable health gains tied to exercising one’s gratitude muscles, just sayin’.

If charity donations are more your speed – You’ll want to ensure your proceeds are actually going toward the desired cause rather than high program costs. It’s all about optimizing your gift for impact!

Watchdog sites like Charity Watch, one of many, are helpful for scoping out an org’s performance ahead of making donations.

Find out how we’re going below the gum line to shape oral care this Thanksgiving and beyond.

Visit for Giving Tuesday terms and conditions.

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