Dr. Bethany Harbin is no stranger to the concept of volunteerism. Summer 2017, for example, found the busy dentist in Jamaica – and she wasn't working on her tan. Instead, she spent a week treating locals, many of whom hadn't seen a dentist "in a long, long time."
Smiling Oak Dentistry, the Mount Pleasant practice where she works as a general dentist in tandem with Dr. Jeff Gardner, offers her the chance to volunteer a little closer to home. Smiling Oak is an active participant in a national network of dentists volunteering their time and services.
"Donated Dental Services offers me the chance to give back," stated Dr. Harbin. "We are able to see patients in our own office and can offer complete care in conjunction with dental labs who also voluntarily participate in the program."
Patients accepted into the DDS program are all 65 and older, in contrast to the spectrum of Jamaican patients she attended to last summer.
"Last summer's mission trip with the Christian Dental Society gave me a real appreciation for preventive care," Dr. Harbin reflected. "It's something I really try to impress upon my patients at Smiling Oak. It's no big secret that poor dental hygiene, such as not brushing and flossing regularly, can lead to gum disease. Gum disease, in turn, may be associated with systemic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease."
She continued, "Diabetes in particular goes hand-in-hand with periodontal disease. Diabetes inhibits the body's ability to heal. Your mouth has trouble keeping up."
"I spent much of my week in Jamaica teaching people who have no access to a dentist about the importance of maintaining a clean mouth," recalled Dr. Harbin.
Although she's too polite to say it, the more fortunate of us who do have access to dental care have no excuse for not taking care of the main entry point for hundreds of strains of bacteria – our mouths.
A graduate of the College of Charleston, Dr. Harbin earned her dental degree from the Medical University of South Carolina, where she also earned a Ph.D. in oral health sciences. After spending a week in Jamaica last summer, Dr. Harbin went on to volunteer at the South Carolina Dental Association's Dental Access Day. Her passion for helping others is evident and shines brightly through her smile.
"It's very rewarding," she said.
Smiling Oak Dentistry has participated in Donated Dental Services for the last 10 years. To learn more about the organization, visit www.dentallifeline.org.