Young dentist's charity making positive changes throughout New Zealand

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Young dentist's charity making positive changes throughout New Zealand

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Revive a Smile was founded in 2011 to help reduce oral health inequalities experienced by disadvantaged and impoverished New Zealanders. (Photograph: Beehappy28/Shutterstock)

Thu. 23. November 2017

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HAMILTON, New Zealand: Now into its sixth year, the charity Revive a Smile has made giant leaps in its ultimate goal of providing free dental care to those in disadvantaged and impoverished communities around New Zealand. Founded by a young Hamilton-based dentist, Dr Assil Russell, it is the only mobile dental clinic of its kind in the country, and it is about to serve those in need in Auckland for the very first time.

After fleeing Iraq with her family at the end of the cold war, Russell arrived in New Zealand as a refugee when she was 5 years old. Her desire to help people was fostered in her from a young age by her parents and her experiences of being in need herself.

Russell first decided to become involved in charity work towards the end of her dentistry degree. Wanting to give back to the people of Iraq, she started I CARE (Iraqi Children’s Aid & Repair Endeavour), which helps Iraqi orphans who are in need of serious medical and dental aid. It was through this experience that Russell decided she wanted to do something similar in New Zealand and so started Revive a Smile, a totally dentistry-focused charity.

While it was initially a locally based initiative for the people of Hamilton, Russell received a NZ$10,000 grant from the insurance company AMP in 2015 to expand her idea. Through that funding and help from organisations such as Southern Cross Health Trust, she was able to complete the work for a transportable clinic, taking her services out of the Hamilton district and heading to communities around New Zealand to provide free dental care. In an interview with the New Zealand TV programme Seven Sharp, Russell stated that the level of oral health she had encountered in some parts of Northland was comparable to that of some patients she had treated in Iraq.

Equipped with everything needed for performing professional tooth cleaning, radiographs and standard dental procedures, the clinic is staffed by volunteers, who see as many patients as possible—some of whom have not been to the dentist in years. Additionally, if there are procedures that cannot be done on site, appointments are arranged with participating clinics that offer a discounted rate to patents.

Knowing the need in Auckland is high for Revive a Smile’s services, Russell hopes to spend at least three weeks in New Zealand’s largest city. The mobile clinic is scheduled to be parked at the Church of the Good Shepherd (6 Moire Rd, Massey, Auckland) from 20 November.

Dental professionals interested in supporting Revive a Smile with a donation or as a dental practice or who would simply like more information can visit www.nzdentalcharity.org.

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