We adopted our son from Guatemala. When my wife and I flew there in 2005 from the United States to get him, we fell in love with the country and the people. As we toured the colonial city of Antigua, a young boy with stained hands approached us. He was carrying a shoeshine kit, and a blackened cotton towel, begging to shine my shoes. The fact that I was wearing tennis shoes didn't deter him. Even after leaving the country with our first child, happy and fulfilled -- finally, we were parents! -- we couldn't shake the image of the shoeshine boy and other children like him in Guatemala. Being in a country where more than half the population lives in poverty, we knew we would return someday.
In 2010, we returned to Guatemala with Buckner International, a Dallas-based humanitarian organization. During this trip, a group of volunteers invited us to help at a dental clinic at a community center operated by Buckner, outside of Guatemala City.
My assignment was to teach the children how to brush their teeth. I was almost floored when one of the volunteers explained that while some of the children were brushing their teeth for the first time, many didn't even own toothbrushes.The children had big, beautiful smiles, and they proudly showed me their teeth after brushing. Many of them had red, swollen gums and several cavities in their little mouths. It was heartbreaking knowing that much of what I was seeing was preventable. It seemed so basic to me as an American, the importance of dental care. Dental care is so valued here in the U.S. that states are required to provide dental benefits to children covered by Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program.
What we encountered in this community outside of Guatemala City represented a reality for much of the world. According to the World Health Organization, in most developing low-income countries, more than 90 percent of cavities go untreated. Columbia University College of Dental Medicine also addressed this issue by stating that the appropriateness of characterizing cavities as "pandemic" because of their "global distribution and severe consequences." Additionally untreated tooth decay can lead to unbearable pain, and the disruption of a child's ability to eat, sleep, speak, play and learn.
We left Guatemala knowing we needed to do something as a response to what we saw. It was this experience that led us to create Smile Squared, a company dedicated to improving the health of children around the world. Our business model is buy one/give one. For every toothbrush purchased, we donate one to a child in need. We also wanted to be good for the environment. As we researched toothbrushes, we came across these alarming facts:
- An estimated 50 million pounds of plastic toothbrushes are tossed in U.S. landfills each year.
More:Dental Care Smile Squared Toothbrush Dental Hygiene Guatemala Non Profit Dental Hygiene Bamboo Toothbrushes
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