Dr. Jeffrey Dalin (Give Kids A Smile)

Ask Dr. Jeffrey Dalin what motivates him in his volunteer work with Give Kids A Smile, and his reply is immediate. “It’s an honor to know these children. Anyone who volunteers at one of our clinics is hooked. They always come back!”

    Dalin, a board member and one of the original founders of the organization, says the children are a constant source of inspiration and education. “Let me tell you about a beautiful little 6-year-old named Esmeralda,” he says. “When she came to our clinic for the first time, we were stunned when she smiled. This child had about 20 teeth, and there was so much decay that eight of them had to be extracted. She was such a trooper! Even a rather indifferent reporter covering the event was so captivated by her that he waited around while she was being treated, and then called us later to find out how she was doing.  And when Esmeralda was introduced to Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, he was equally charmed.”   

    Dalin says he’s always learning from the children he meets through Give Kids A Smile. “They’re wonderful! They’re cute, they’re nervous and they are very receptive, even though most of them have never seen a dentist before.” Dalin says his work is profoundly gratifying. “It’s a privilege to know these kids. You can’t imagine how it feels when they tell us that they have been sharing a toothbrush with their entire family, and then see their smile when they are given one of their own.”

     The chronic pain of unhealthy teeth can lead to behavior problems and poor self-esteem, Dalin points out. “We met a young lady from a middle school who was always acting out, fighting every day. When we saw her for the first time she was disheveled and unkempt. Then we discovered her teeth and gums were in terrible shape—she needed a lot of work. This was on a Friday, and we heard from her teachers the following week that she showed up at school ‘all put together’ and never got in trouble again. She’d been in pain all that time, and fixing her teeth completely turned her behavior around.” 

    Dalin is often joined at the clinics by his wife, Debbie, and their three children. “It’s definitely a family effort,” he says. “Like I said, just come once and see what we do. You’ll be hooked.”