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Operation Dignity: Local dentist team bringing smiles to Africa

(WEAU) - Faith, hope and a smile is something that many Americans can say they possess. But, soon families in Africa will have that chance, thanks to a local dentist office.

According to the World Health Organization, for every 150,000 people in Africa there's only one dentist. So a team from Hebert Dental will be making the trek to Ghana to help bring dental treatment and awareness for the first time.

The sound of a dentist drill is not something a village of about 3,000 in Africa has ever heard or even used. But Dr. Sean Tarpenning stepped up to make a difference after hearing about a mission called 'Operation Dignity.'

"A couple, Kathy and Jim Sullivan I think about 3 years ago brought some medical teams over the past 3 years to Ghana Africa to serve and treat patients there," said Dr. Sean Tarpenning of Hebert Dental.

After he told his staff, the idea took off and people like Sheila Joles hopped on board.

"I thought wow I want to go and join and be there and help out people, so I was really excited to have the opportunity,” said Sheila Joles, Patient Services Coordinator.

A total of 10 people from Hebert Dental, a registered nurse and a physical therapist will be leaving for an adventure of a lifetime on their own dime on February 28th.

"From what I know there's no dentist in the village. The dental licenses are very hard to get out there. I'm guessing most of the patients will have never seen a dentist," said Tarpenning.

"I really don't know what to expect. We just been to a couple of meetings on what we can expect. I think it’s going to be life altering when I'm in the situation and there,” said Joles.

The team will be setting up in a jail where hundreds of families will wait hours to get care and education.

"Mostly going to be patient education of how to brush and keep their teeth clean. Perhaps treat minor things and most likely it’s going to be a lot of oral surgery and extraction of bad infected teeth,” said Tarpenning.

Sean says with the amount of supplies that he and his staff are able to bring to Africa, they're able to help about 200 people a day. Since they'll be staying for a course of 10 days, that comes out to be about 2,000 patients that their able to see.

So far the trip has raised $30,000 worth of supplies which the team will have to fit in their suitcases. But Sean hopes to leave supplies there for future teams and future smiles.

"I think what we'll all realize when were done with this trip is the human spirit is just a wonderful thing," said Tarpenning.


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