Helping Someone Smile
Dental hygienist starts her own non-profit organization to provide dental care to those in need
Dental health professionals are acutely aware of the importance of routine, preventative dental care. They are also aware that while everyone needs and deserves routine care, not everyone can afford it. Those who are unable to afford to go to the dentist face an array of risk factors that can be detrimental to not only their oral health, but to their overall health as well. Joni Green, registered dental hygienist at Essington Family Dental Care in Joliet, IL, saw a number of people in her own community who were in great need of dental care but had no means to afford it. With a desire to help others, she set out to find a way to give back.
“I have always had an ethical outlook on life, believing that everyone should be treated equally,” said Joni. “I think that equality should be reflected in all things, including dental care.” The truth, however, is that dental care is not easily accessed by everyone. People without dental insurance and even those with insurance do not always have the means to afford the care they need. While there are some agencies that are available to help, lifetime quality of care is often not considered. Teeth are removed without being replaced and preventative care is minimal. “Knowing the reality of what’s available, I decided that I not only wanted to help others, but as a dental professional, I had a moral obligation to find a way,” stated Joni.
RDH and Founder of Helping Someone Smile
Photo by Janelle Marie Photography
In July of 2014, Joni completed Power of One, a leadership course supported by Heartland Dental that empowers team members to stretch themselves to make a difference. “After finishing the course, I knew it was time for me to take a leap of faith,” said Joni. That same month, Joni founded Helping Someone Smile Inc. (HSS), an organization created to give aid to those without dental insurance, as well as those who cannot afford the co-pays associated with their insurance.
The name Helping Someone Smile Inc. was inspired by a young woman Joni met at a local restaurant. “The young lady working at the restaurant was nice looking and very kind, but she had very bad teeth,” recalls Joni. “After visiting the restaurant several times and getting to know her more, I began to wonder what her life could be like if she could only smile.” A beautiful smile gives us confidence, pride and shows others we care. But an unhealthy smile that is deteriorating due to lack of dental care can have an adverse effect on one’s self-esteem and overall health.
Since July, HSS has become an official nonprofit organization. It is registered in the state of Illinois and is now recognized by the federal government as a 501c3 charitable organization. Currently, patients are selected for the program through a referral program at Essington Family Dental Care. Now that HSS has 501c3 status, Joni is looking to partner with any dental office that meets the criteria of quality care. “Patient care is of utmost importance because of the sensitive nature of the care to these individuals,” said Joni. “They are ashamed of their oral health and therefore should not be made to feel inadequate.”
In addition to providing funds for dental services, a goal of HSS is to also educate the community on the importance of dental hygiene. Important dental care is constantly being passed up due to financial issues. But what many do not know is that oral health is linked to a number of health problems. Joni would like to help people understand that good overall health starts with good oral health.
HSS will be paying for dental services in all communities as funds become available. It is Joni’s hope that within five years, the organization becomes nationwide. And as for the young girl who inspired the organization’s name, Joni has since reached out to her. As a result, she is now getting a complete smile makeover, paid in full by Helping Someone Smile.
For questions or more information about Helping Someone Smile, Inc., visit www.HelpingSomeoneSmile.com or email HelpingSomeoneSmileInc@gmail.com. “This organization is small as of today, but will continue to grow because I have a mission and a passion,” said Joni. “I look forward to working with any dental professional that cares for others as I do.”