Joshua Davidson, DMD, ’11, has a heart for volunteer work and helping others. A practicing dentist based in Chippewa Falls, Wis., he helps communities close to home and around the globe.
Last October, Dr. Davidson participated in a humanitarian trip to Guilin, a picturesque city in southern China. A member of a 22-person team, he was accompanied by six dentists, one optometrist, two nurses, two hygienists, a videographer, and nine support staff. Together, the team provided care to underserved locals, including mentally challenged children. However, due to the lack of supplies and technology available, the team brought most of their own equipment.
“In terms of materials, understanding, and research, it just wasn’t what we have here in the United States,” says Dr. Davidson, who worked mostly at the Affiliate Hospital of Guilin Medical University. “They didn’t even have cartridges of anesthesia for the pain.”
Most surprising to Dr. Davidson was dental hygienists are not common in China—something he considers a major downfall in their dental care system. Unfortunately, for many people in the region, periodontal disease is endemic.
“The most rewarding part of the trip was teaching patients about proper dental care at home and getting regular cleanings to prevent unhealthy gums and bone loss,” Dr. Davidson says.
The trip didn’t completely revolve around a dental chair, though. He also accompanied the team’s optometrist to a rural boarding school and helped fit glasses for kids for a day. The optometrist brought along 1,800 pairs of prescription glasses and tested each child’s eyesight. As they fitted each child, Dr. Davidson couldn’t help but notice their excitement as they were finally able to read an eye chart.
Of course, visiting Guilin wasn’t Dr. Davidson’s first unique volunteer experience. At his local farmers market, he recognized the poor oral hygiene of several Amish adults.
“These folks have awful teeth,” he says. “They seem to think teeth are expendable and that’s the normal trajectory of the human mouth.”
In hopes of breaking generational cycles of poor oral health, Dr. Davidson set out to educate the local Amish children. He received approval from the school board president to visit the Amish school.
After giving a short presentation, he handed out toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss to each child. Following through on his approach, he hoped to revisit the school one year later and provide a refresher on proper oral care and give away more toothbrushes.
“This time, for some reason, the board president said, no, so my project ground to a halt.”
Persistently, Dr. Davidson continues to volunteer and make a difference at every opportunity. He believes the training in public health dentistry he received at ASDOH prepared him for the kind of volunteer work he loves.
“I went into dentistry because I truly want to help people and give them a better quality of life,” he says. “There’s value in seeing different cultures and helping people in other places.”