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2300 Yonge Street
Suite 905 Box 2334
Toronto, Ontario, Canada



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canadian Registered Charity Number : 71007 9484R0001

© 2019 by Build Your Smile Dental Foundation Ltd.
Photography by Nathalie Crown



Wow, what a whirlwind few months it has been for the team at Build Your Smile Dental Foundation! Let me take a few minutes of your time to fill you in on all the happenings on our end. Maybe, just maybe, you will be so inspired that you’ll want to join our team.

We started 2020 off with a bang. Our amazing team of staff and volunteers embarked on the journey of a lifetime and headed to Uganda. We completed the second Clinical Outreach trip and third International Dental Symposium. The amazing volunteers that made up our team represented all disciplines in Dentistry and beyond. They came from many corners of the world, joining from Canada, the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. It seems that our reach is beginning to grow – which will enable us to diversify our programming in the not-so-distant future. We can’t wait to share our progress with you as soon as things become finalized. Stay tuned!

Over 8 clinical days, we saw:

2034 smiles, including:

1423 children (oral hygiene, fluoride treatments, triaged for restorations and extractions)

503 extraction patients with 830 extractions performed

105 dentures completed and delivered 282 teeth replaced.

98 hygiene and restorative treatments carried out

20 implants placed, impressed, and will be delivered at next outreach, and

6 implants restorations and one natural tooth crown inserted.

Our dental symposium featured speakers from the University of Toronto, including Dean Dan Haas, Drs. Parvaneh Bahrami, Rakan Baaj, and Izchak Barzilay, and from the University of Rochester, Dr. Carlo Ercoli. We partnered with local Ugandan schools, including Makerere University, Gulu College of Health Sciences and Mulago Dental School, among others. An audience of over 150 eager dental professionals and students were in attendance and were excited to learn of the latest technologies in dentistry. We are so proud to be able to facilitate these partnerships between North American institutions of higher education, and their counterparts in Uganda to be able to one day make our services in Uganda obsolete.

The senior members of our team had the opportunity to meet with government officials in both Uganda and Ethiopia to discuss the development of new outreach and education initiatives as we continue to expand our outreach capabilities. We hope to hold exploratory sessions with both countries to see how we can best serve their communities who are severely lacking in dental care and services.Our core team then descended upon Chicago for the annual Mid-Winter and American Prosthodontic Society Meetings. There we held more meetings with delegations from Central and South America. We are excited about the opportunity to expand our work to communities within the Americas (and to be able to offer you shorter and more accessible trips to join!).

And on that note, I’d like to ask you for your help. We would love for you to join our team. Please let us know if you have any interest in volunteering locally or abroad (and please take a moment to share us with anyone who might be interested), or if you have connections with communities that could use our support and resources. Expanding our reach is a group effort, and your feedback is invaluable. And as always, we would not be able to do what we do without your financial support, so if you feel compelled to make a donation, please do so here.

…because smiles have no borders.

Updated: Feb 12, 2019

At the Build Your Smile Dental Foundation we are always finding reasons to smile, whether in Toronto or in Uganda. We are so grateful to receive stories like this one from the dental officers we have trained during our various trips. Treatment shouldn’t differ based on location – because smiles have no borders.

Meet 13-year-old Anita. She lives in Uganda with her parents, and three younger siblings. One day she was walking to school and was knocked down by a speeding motorcycle, knocking out her two front teeth. Her life has changed drastically since the accident – her academic performance has declined, and she began to be bullied in school. Her classmates began calling her ‘mapengo,’ which means ‘the one without teeth.’ Being from a poor family, Anita and her parents were unaware that this problem is entirely fixable.

Before: Anita in Uganda

Bruce is an active participant in our programming and is a dental officer in Uganda. He met Anita at a party and noticed that she refused to smile. Bruce explained to Anita and her parents that there was an easy solution to bring Anita’s smile best, and most importantly, it could be done completely for FREE! They made an appointment, and Anita received a denture. Now she can’t stop smiling.

After: Anita in Uganda

This is why we do what we do. This is why education is so important. The work that the Build Your Smile Dental Foundation does is only good and meaningful if it can continue in our absence. We are so delighted to see this case where it has done just that. It is the education aspect of our outreach trips that differentiate us from other volunteer trips. And it is this component that is changing more lives than we can reach during our week-long time on the ground in Uganda. Thank you Bruce for forever changing Anita’s life!

  • Elyte Barzilay

Updated: Feb 12, 2019

Recently an article was posted in The Guardian ( regarding voluntourism. If you are unaware, voluntourism is the act of travelling somewhere to volunteer for a week, do your do-goodedness, and then leave, never to return (to that same locale) again. The article, entitled The business of voluntourism: do western do-gooders actually do harm? suggests (in case it was TL;DR for you) that travelling to volunteer can actually spark more harm than good. The author of the article makes the case that while volunteers travel that voluntourism sells some sort of dream - a transformative or life changing experience – to the volunteer, that often doesn’t actually benefit the people they are there to help in any real way. In some cases, it even creates more problems than it seeks to solve, including children with living parents being placed in orphanages, and capitalizing on free labor in the name of raising money instead of providing jobs for local laborers. There is an adage that goes something like: Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will not go hungry. The Guardian article is suggesting that despite our kindheartedness and best efforts, we are just giving the needy some fish. The real value of voluntourism is to the volunteer.

It is a troubling thought, especially as we at the Build Your Smile Dental Foundation are so committed to helping those who are under-served. Yes, while what we do is significantly different from what many charities seek to do, which often includes physical labor, how are our efforts really impacting the communities we help? Afterall, giving people with no teeth new teeth is something that requires a specific skill set and is something that can uniquely transform a life – from the ability to eat solid foods again to allowing a wide, toothy grin to light up one’s face. As we embark on this new journey at the Foundation, how can we differentiate ourselves from these other charities and create positive change that is long-lasting – both in terms of the care patients receive, and the care they can receive when we are not present in a boots-on-the-ground capacity?

When the key players at the Build Your Smile Dental Foundation were asked this question (and were asked to read the article) they all had the same response. “What we do is different because the actual physical dental work is only one half of what we do.” Education is a key component of our work. While we are creating dentures or implants for patients in countries like Uganda or Costa Rica, we are also training the local dental practitioners to work at our standard of care. Beyond this, we collaborate with the dental schools in Uganda to host a several-day seminar where we again teach North American dental standards and practices to a room of eager young minds who have gathered from around the country. We also support an academic grant which provides for one lucky recipient annually to come to Canada and attend a lecture series given by leaders in the dental field, accompanied with a clinical hands-on component.

Though, we must ask ourselves – ‘are we doing enough?’ How can we ensure that we are doing the best possible work and adequately supporting change on the ground? That is the key to out mission and our motivation as a newly formed foundation. We do not seek to implement ‘band-aid’ solutions nor do we want to inflate our own egos and confidence. How do we know that we are doing what is right and that we are doing enough?

For now, we are fortunate to be able to see the education we provide be put into action which gives us hope that we are on the right track. We receive before and after photos from the people we have the pleasure of training in Uganda, and the results speak for themselves – and I am not only referring to the quality of the restorations provided. What is more important, at least to me as I write this post, is the size of the smile on the patient’s face – a smile they may never have thought they would get to wear again. We can ponder how best to serve those who need our help, and I’m sure over time we will learn and grow and evolve. But one thing is for certain – at least for now. While the jury is out on the value of voluntourism, action is always better than inaction, and we are proud of the fact that we can make an impact where otherwise there would be none.

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