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A child’s smile can light up the world, they say. With this in mind, AdventHealth began its Sharing Smiles program to provide free facial reconstructive surgery, pediatric dentistry and pediatric rehabilitation services to children in developing countries and other at-risk communities. Since its start, the volunteers at Sharing Smiles have transformed the lives of more than 26,000 children while establishing long-term health care access to their communities.
Cleft Lip and Palate Treatment
Children born in Latin America are more likely to have a cleft lip or palate than those born in the United States. Since 1999, AdventHealth’s Sharing Smiles surgical teams have been working to provide treatment to children born with these disorders.
The team of world-class, volunteer specialists include cleft surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, technicians and other volunteers who travel thousands of miles to work within communities in need. These free surgeries are just one part of the service they provide, however. While there, they also establish partnerships with local public health institutions as well as with private sector leadership to ensure each child gets long-term comprehensive care after their surgery.
These partnerships are used to equip the local health care providers with the tools and equipment they need to continue treating the children after our surgical team has gone home. These partnerships provide the children with access to continued care such as speech therapy, orthodontics and psychological counseling.
Proper oral hygiene and dental care are, unfortunately, hard to come by in many less developed countries. Dental care is a continuous process, requiring regular visits to a dentist and through their mission to foster healthy smiles, the Sharing Smiles‘ team of specialists set up long-term dentistry care that allows for dental cleanings and preventative care every six months.
Their team of specialists provide the children with the tools, education and dental care they need to ensure they have a lasting healthy smile. And the partnerships they create with local health care providers allow for the treatment of many more children than they could see themselves.
Since 2015, Sharing Smiles has treated hundreds of children in places like Tegucigalpa, Honduras with the help of their partner organization, El Hogar. These disadvantaged children come from families who struggle to provide even the most basic levels of support or care, which makes this work so important.
Developing countries can be a challenging place to grow up for children with physical or mental disabilities. So, Sharing Smiles selected a group of orphanages in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic in 2016 to change the lives of 40 orphaned children with physical or mental disabilities.
Most of the children Sharing Smiles works with have epilepsy, cerebral palsy or similar conditions and in order to treat them and provide long-term care, they’ve partnered with local physical therapists to develop individualized treatment plans as well as create ongoing relationships between the care teams.
A team of highly trained physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists from Central Florida were brought in to work with the local care providers in the DR. The children received individual evaluations and treatment plans designed to increase their mobility and help them be more self-sufficient.
The pediatric rehabilitation team also trains the local caregivers in the use of modern therapy techniques so they can continue to provide care for the children after they’ve returned home.
Help Give the Gift of a Smile by Getting Involved
Learn more about the incredible work being done by the volunteers at Sharing Smiles by visiting their website or by calling 407-303-9406. While there, you can also sign up to volunteer or donate to help give the gift of a healthy smile to a child in need.