Dentex partners join SmileStar charity on a trip to provide free dental care in one of India’s most deprived areas.
People become dentists for all sorts of reasons. Medical curiosity. The challenge. Family tradition. Sometimes the financial incentive. For most, however, it is the added element of care. We want to become dentists because we want to help people. We want to remove unnecessary pain, prevent preventable illnesses, and improve people’s confidence. We care about what our patients feel, and we want to do the best we can to help them. There’s a great need for skilled dentistry everywhere in the world, but some places have a greater need than others. In February 2018, a number of Dentex colleagues joined the SmileStar charity to take dentistry skills to one of the places it is needed most – Gujarat.
With a population of 60 million, Gujarat is one of India’s fastest growing states, and a lot of work has been put in to help alleviate and prevent poverty. In recent years, high growth has ensured a better quality of life for most, but one sixth of the population remains in need, with health care and dental care coming low on the list of many people’s financial priorities. The SmileStar charity was founded by Dentex Partner and Principal to several dental practices in the South West of England, Mitesh Badiani. Its mission is to bring expert dental care to underprivileged areas, such as Gujarat.
“Extractions, extractions, extractions!” says Magdalena Laskowska, a Dentex Partner heading up the Harwood Dental Practice in Tavistock. “In three days in Gujarat the team treated 362 patients, and more often than not they needed extractions. It sounds drastic, but sometimes removing decayed teeth is the only way to alleviate pain and suffering. Some of these people hadn’t seen a dentist in years, some never before.”
Several others from Dentex joined Magdalena on this most recent trip for the SmileStar project. The dental partnership group brings together principals as co-owners – helping them grow as part of a collective, either to establish/extend a practice group of their own or reduce responsibilities and unburden themselves of daily practice management to focus on other areas of interest, without simply selling up to a large conglomerate. It’s a proposition that appealed to both Magdalena and Mitesh and enabled them to rekindle their passion for dentistry as part of a wider network of dentists. “Mitesh is so passionate about the work of SmileStar that I’d barely been talking to him for five minutes before it came up in the conversation, and I immediately felt that it was something I’d like to be involved with,” she explains. “I love my work at Harwood, but It’s taking part in a trip like this that really makes you feel as if you’re doing some good and truly helping people.”
For this most recent SmileStar venture, Mitesh and Magdalena were joined by Amy Holdsworth, Dentex Operation Manager and Founder William Bowen-Davies Dentex.
It was Magdalena’s fourth trip for SmileStar. “My first trip was to Kenya. I carried out more extractions in our few days there than I had in my previous 22 years of work,” she explains. “It always seems to be about the extractions! But the really rewarding thing for me isn’t just helping people on the day, but in sharing knowledge; showing local medical personnel in Gujarat how to take teeth out without unnecessary effort, so they can help their community, rather than leaving them waiting in pain for a charity to come along.
“That’s really the thing that I love about working with Dentex too; as well as being a professional organisation, it’s also a community. We all have different skillsets, so we’re able to help each other and share our knowledge. Running your own practice can be quite lonely – there’s no support when things go wrong. Being part of a practice partnership removes that concern; if in doubt, there’s always someone else who’s been there and can provide sound advice. It also gives me the freedom to get more involved in projects like SmileStar.”
Amy Holdsworth, Dentex Operation Manager added: “I had always said I wanted to do something like this, when I was offered the opportunity to go to India there was no way I was turning this down. This trip was truly the most inspirational, eye opening trip I have ever experienced. The life lessons I learnt on this trip have already made me feel and think completely different in my everyday life. I will never ever forget it! Thanks SmileStar!”
SmileStar is a volunteer-based charity. Although fundraising takes place, it is only to cover the cost of equipment; all professionals involved in the projects self-fund their flights and accommodation. Like any charity operation, the reward comes from the work itself.