Golfers of all levels dream of someday traveling on the PGA TOUR, visiting the storied courses at Augusta, Hilton Head, and Pebble Beach. Dr. Richard Garza has those same dreams, but for a different reason - he wants to help children in those areas.
Dr. Garza is the founder of Christina’s Smile Children’s Dental Clinic, a nonprofit dental clinic operated in conjunction with the PGA TOUR and the Champions Tour. Since its inception 15 years ago, Christina’s Smile has delivered comprehensive dental care to more than 32,000 youngsters across the United States.
“Christina’s Smile provides a unique way for the PGA TOUR to give back to children in communities that host a PGA TOUR event,” Dr. Garza said. “To date more than $11 million worth of dentistry has been provided to needy children in conjunction with PGA TOUR tournaments across the country.”
It has been a labor of love for Dr. Garza, who treated children in his practice in Austin, Texas, for more than 24 years. It was during those years that he discovered the great need that exists for children to receive quality dental care.
“I would look at the children coming into the practice, and see others who have never been to a dentist, and think to myself that someone, somewhere could help these kids,” Dr. Garza said.
That hope and dream quickly evolved into Christina’s Smile, an outreach that consists of two fully equipped semi trailers that travel around the country to various professional golf events. In 2005, there are 21 stops scheduled for Christina’s Smile, with the year beginning in San Diego in January and ending in November in Naples, Fla.
“Until people walk into the clinic, they don’t realize what is available for these kids,” Dr. Garza smiled.
Each of the clinics consist of 48-foot trailers filled with state-of-the-art dental equipment. Each trailer contains three operatories, X-ray equipment, and a sterilization area. It takes 18 volunteer dentists to run the clinic during the three days the clinic is open in each city, and each dentist is required to bring at least one staff member with him or her. Air Techniques, KaVo, A-dec, SciCan, Patterson, and other companies have donated the equipment. Roadway Express has donated the trailers, and the company’s employees also donate their time and talents to raise more than $400,000 annually for Christina’s Smile.
“We are delivering comprehensive dentistry to a lot of children during those three days,” said Dr. Garza, who estimates that each three-day clinic delivers roughly $60,000 of donated dentistry. “We’re doing procedures such as cleanings, sealants, restorations, root canals, some cosmetic dentistry, and extractions when necessary. The really important thing is that these volunteers know they are making a difference in the lives of children. I am convinced that every volunteer walks away a little taller after donating their time.”
The clinic’s impact is not only being noticed by Dr. Garza and the volunteers, but also by the PGA TOUR and its golfers. PGA TOUR standout Brad Faxon serves on the Christina’s Smile advisory board, along with Champions Tour competitors Jim Albus, Jim Colbert, Jim Dent, Dale Douglass, Bruce Fleisher, Al Geiberger, Bob Gilder, Tom Jenkins, Bob Murphy, Chi Chi Rodriguez, and Dave Stockton.
“Dr. Garza and the Christina’s Smile Children’s Dental Clinic have impacted thousands of lives over the past 14 years, and we are proud that Dr. Garza’s program continues to be part of the PGA TOUR’s tradition of giving back in the communities where we play,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem.
Giving back is the overriding reason many volunteer dentists become a part of the Christina’s Smile project, according to Dr. Garza.
“Dentists come into this project with individual ideas on what they want to do to help the children,” Dr. Garza explained. “This isn’t about money or treatment plans. This is about a group of men and women doing what they can during a 45- to 60-minute appointment to make a child’s life better.”
Editor’s Note: For more information, and for locations of upcoming stops for the Christina’s Smile caravan, log on to www.csmile.com. Dr. Garza can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].
Kevin Henry is the managing editor of Dental Economics®. To submit a dentist to be profiled for this column, send an e-mail to [email protected].