Outer Banks dentist gives patients in Africa ‘A Reason To Smile’

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KITTY HAWK, N.C. – A local dentist is trying to help relieve people of dental pain, even if that means traveling to another continent.

If you live in the Outer Banks you might know Gunther Heyder as an Associate at Atlantic Dentistry, the dental office his brother Markus started in 2005.

Heyder not only tends to the dental needs of his patients, but to adults and children in Africa through a nonprofit he started in 2014.

ARTS - A Reason To Smile - deploys a team of up to 15 dentists, hygienists and volunteers to Senegal and Uganda throughout the year to work on the locals' teeth.

Heyder said their goal is to eliminate pain in the mouths of their patients and spread education about dental hygiene so the area can become more knowledgeable and save their future generations from dental decay and infection.

In the last three years Heyder and his team have traveled to Africa eight times, each trip seeing 400-600 patients.

In the course of a day, the ARTS team does extractions, cleanings and educational sessions. In total they have treated more than 3,500 people in Africa.

Being a nonprofit, 100% of donations to ARTS goes directly towards the supplies and expenses needed for the trip. Heyder and his staff buy their own plane tickets to their destination. Each trip costs them $8,000-$10,000!

Heyder said though there is a cost - out of pocket - the smiles they bring to people who have lived with dental pain for years is more than worth it.

“Everyone in the world has teeth. This is something we can do to help people that don’t have the same access to care that we have,” said Heyder. “My staff - everyone I have ever brought - has such a great experience there and they smile just as much as our patients do,” he said.

The team is planning another trip in November; they are always looking for donations of all kinds. To find out how you can get involved, click here.

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