Th 129501

Dental care for children

July 1, 2003
"Our mission is to improve the lives of children by providing no cost dental care for disadvantaged children in the United States and Mexico." —Dr. Charles P. Tozzer

Keith Phillips, DDS

Underprivileged children from schools and orphanages in Mexico, Los Angeles, and Orange County, Calif., have been reaping the benefits of Dr. Charles P. Tozzer and a committed group of volunteers for 11 years. Lay volunteers from all walks of life — construction, electronics, real estate, homemakers, and others — gather six or seven times a year to provide free dental care. On a typical trip, the team will treat 75 to 100 young patients and often deliver $15,000 to $20,000 worth of free dental services. Treatment includes exams, radiographs, cleanings, fillings, extractions, and, in some cases, crown-and-bridgework.

In addition to providing dental services, the volunteers often get directly involved in scavenging equipment and supplies. Some of the portable equipment used by the group has been hand-built by the volunteers, and everybody pitches in when and where they can.

A view inside the Tozzer Clinic
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In fact, Dr. Tozzer's mother, 70, has not missed a trip to Mexico in 10 years. Initially she was concerned about her ability to help with all the "high tech" dental equipment. Dr. Tozzer responded by showing her how the autoclave was like her own dishwasher — things go in dirty and come out clean! Now Mrs. Tozzer tells everyone to "stay out of her kitchen," and she runs sterilization without a hitch.

Outside the Tozzer Clinic in Mexico
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As with so many charitable causes, Dr. Tozzer and the volunteers say, "It is gratifying to see the difference one can make in the lives of these children. To see them smile after their treatment is truly a rewarding experience."

Dr. Tozzer's mom
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During the 11 years Dr. Tozzer has been providing these clinics, almost 5,000 patients have been treated and close to $1 million of free dental care has been provided. One of the most gratifying things about this whole program is, "It is all done on a shoestring budget. Since we pay no rent or salaries and have built our own equipment from donated parts, our overhead is quite low." Amazingly, Dr. Tozzer calculates that for every $1 donated, he and the group can deliver more than $6 in services. With the average charitable organization delivering only 50 cents worth of services per dollar in donations, Dr. Tozzer proudly highlights his 600 percent rate of return!

Having recently received the coveted 501C-3 nonprofit organization status from the IRS, the group is making plans for expansion. They now have a Web site — www.DentalCare ForChildren.org — to help them involve even more people in giving back through dentistry.

Dr. Keith Phillips maintains a private practice in Winston-Salem, N.C. He is president and founder of The Giving Hand Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to the start-up and development of free medical and dental clinics. Dr. Phillips also serves as a teaching associate at the L.D. Pankey Institute and is on the faculty of the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry.

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