• Sona Wegner, MBA, Founder

Get to know A Reason To Smile (ARTS)

Note from Bookkeeping for Dentists: Below is a guest post from the founder of ARTS, Gunther Heyder. He is the dentist of our Senior Accounting Associate, Terri Nomm. Terri has had so many nice things to say about Dr. Heyder and the foundation he started so we wanted to help spread the word.

A Reason to Smile (ARTS) is more than our name. It's a mantra. Using a three-pronged approach of dental care, education, and supplies, ARTS aims to empower people in rural African communities to attain and maintain a higher level of dental health and prevent the spread of dental disease-giving more and more Africans a reason to smile.

Rural African communities have little to no access to oral health care. The average dentist-to-population ratio across Africa is 1:150,000, compared to approximately 1:1,667 in the United States. In fact, more than half (52%) of Senegalese people live more than 50 kilometers (more than 30 miles) from the closest dental provider. That's why 97.7% of Senegalese households skip regular annual visits to the dentist and only 25% go to the dentist when in pain.

Founded by Dr. Gunther Heyder in 2015, ARTS addresses this problem by organizing volunteer dentists, hygienists, and educators to travel to rural communities in Senegal and Uganda and provide oral health care services, supplies, and education workshops. ARTS took its inaugural trip to Ndioum, Senegal, in March 2015 to start the process of village-wide dental education and to perform emergency tooth extractions. The team included two dentists, one dental assistant, a lawyer, a teacher, and an international advisor as logistics support. The trip was a success, with the ARTS team serving over 500 patients and extracting more than 1,000 infected teeth. The team was assisted by local Peace Corps volunteers, who not only provided logistical and translation support but also served as cultural exchange guides within the communities.

ARTS soon expanded to Uganda in November of 2015 thanks to a partnership with a local organization, Tokamalirawo Aids Support and Action Group Awareness (TASAAGA,) easing the transition into the communities’ political and cultural dynamics. Over the last four years, ARTS has found these local partnerships essential in promoting sustainable improvements in dental hygiene for the region.

Now, with nine trips, 3,000 patients, and 30 educated communities under its belt, ARTS has set its sights on increasing the impact of its work by increasing the budget, the number of volunteers, and the frequency of trips. ARTS recently set a vision for a world in which all people have reliable access to the treatment, knowledge, and supplies required to maintain dental health.To achieve this vision ARTS recently set a goal to double the number of trips per year from two to four.

Join Us!

Want to volunteer abroad? Care about oral health and wellbeing? Interested in connecting with people and learning about other cultures? Join A Reason To Smile (ARTS) in empowering rural communities in Senegal and Uganda without access to dental professionals. Each year ARTS volunteer teams provide treatment, education, and deliver needed dental supplies to hundreds of people, most of whom have never seen a dentist before. ARTS is looking for dental professionals to join the team to provide direct treatment and support oral hygiene education.

You can see upcoming trips on our website here: https://www.artsmile.org/upcoming-dates.

Submit a volunteer application at https://www.artsmile.org/volunteer-application or contact lucy@artsmile.org with any questions.

The Details: Volunteers fundraise to support the cost of their trip. Trips typically cost $1700 per volunteer. ARTS organizes all travel, accommodations, and meals within the country.


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