There is a strong association between oral diseases and poverty. According to the World Health Organization, oral diseases impact approximately 3.5 billion people.
7 NGOs Making Strides in Improving Global Dental Health
- Academy of Dentistry International Foundation. The Academy of Dentistry International is an honor society “for dentists dedicated to sharing knowledge… to serve dental health needs and to improve the quality of life throughout the world.” Its Academy of Dentistry International Foundation provides grants for missions and projects that assist disadvantaged communities, supporting dental care for people in Honduras, Columbia, Kenya, Jamaica, the Philippines and Belize since 2010. The Foundation funded Bright Smiles Cameroon in 2018, which offers oral health education to school-aged children. Another grant recipient was the Health and Development Society Nepal, which offers oral health training to primary care workers who can then offer health care services to marginalized communities in Nepal.
- Dentaid. This organization began its work in 1996, delivering dental treatment to more than 70 countries since then, including the U.K. Dentaid supplies dental equipment and sends volunteers to impoverished and rural communities. Its “DentaidBox,” an innovative portable bin, includes all the equipment necessary to perform dental surgery even when electricity and running water are unavailable. In 2021, the DentaidBox reached seven African countries. In that same year, Dentaid created eight free clinics for people who are homeless in the U.K. and has plans to launch nine more. It also offered services to refugees and asylum seekers in the U.K.
- Global Child Dental Fund. This organization aims to serve every child needing dental health services. Currently, the organization is working with Jordanian dental students to aid Syrian refugees in Jordan. About 1,500 children in Jordan’s refugee camps have received “toothbrushes, toothpaste and oral health education.” One of the fund’s projects, SEAL Cambodia, has treated more than “66,000 children with dental sealants.” Global Child Dental Fund also provides “special care dentistry” in poverty-stricken and remote areas. The fund has trained students in Zambia and offered services to children with special needs in Kenya and Cambodia.
- Global Dental Relief. Since 2001, Global Dental Relief has offered free dental care to children across the world, serving close to 200,000 children from 2001 to 2020 with its volunteer work in eight countries. In addition to providing dental care, Global Dental Relief is unique in that, in Guatemala and Nepal, it also provides meals to families suffering from food scarcity.
- Open Wide Foundation. The Foundation’s mission is “to bring lasting change to the state of oral health in underserved communities worldwide.” The Foundation targets communities that have the greatest need for dental health care, beginning in 2012 and since serving more than 200,000 people. Open Wide Foundation built its first clinic in the Guatemalan city of Peronia, an impoverished community that had little to no access to dental health services. Since then, the Foundation has opened additional dental clinics in Guatemala. The Open Wide Foundation also works with students, offering “mentoring and practicum opportunities” to first-year dental students.
- Smiles for Everyone. Smiles for Everyone offers free dental health services in several countries. Since its inception, more than 27,000 individuals have received free dental care. Smiles for Everyone offers basic dental services as well as root canals, dentures and implants. The organization also provides training to Paraguayan dentists on complex dental procedures. Many of the patients at the free dental clinics have never visited a dentist before.
- World Health Dental Organization. This organization offers free dental care and education to marginalized communities, primarily in Kenya. Its flagship clinic provides annual dental treatment to around 4,000 Maasai people who have limited access to dental services. One particular Maasai initiative is the Momma Baby Clinic program that offers “preventative oral health and early intervention strategies… to pregnant mothers and mothers of infants and young children,” educating “hundreds of mothers” a year. Another program, I Am Responsible, has led to the oral health education of more than 700 school children. The organization, through its programs, has also distributed 1,500 bamboo toothbrushes to children living in the Mara.
While many oral diseases continue to plague impoverished communities, NGOs are committed to addressing the issue by providing free dental care to previously out-of-reach communities. By volunteering services, supplying resources and carrying out skill-based training, these NGOs aim to create global change. Many also aim to offer education to school-aged children on good oral health and hygiene. As people have better access to essential resources for oral disease prevention, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and running water, the burden to alleviate the public health problem of oral diseases will subside.
– Amy Helmendach