Kelowna dentists generate thousands of smiles

Debra Matson and Jonathan Visscher bring dental aid to children in Third World countries.

  • Nov. 25, 2012 12:00 p.m.

When husband-wife dental team Debra Matson and Jonathan Visscher arrive at a remote village school carrying suitcases stashed with toothbrushes and dental tools, there are often hundreds of townspeople waiting outside, palms gripping jaws that have been sore for years.

“Everyone is in pain. Every mouth has rotten teeth,” said Visscher, who has been to 8 thirdworld countries since 2009 along with Matson, his wife and dental clinic partner at Okanagan Smiles.

Through an organization called New Reality International (NRI), the couple travels more than twice a year to communities in Asia and South America where there are no dentists.

Visscher and Matson just returned from Myanmar, where, in temples and schools, they pulled and cleaned the teeth of hundreds of people, including a five-year-old girl. “She just walked right up on her own and pointed at the tooth she wanted out,” said Visscher, currently the NRI president. “Later on, I saw her in her family’s hut and I knew the numbing had worn off by then, but she smiled big and showed me where she lived.”

It’s the kids NRI hopes will be most impacted by the mission trips Matson and Visscher attend.

Traveling in groups of about 10 dentists and doctors from across North America, the couple’s first goal is to get everyone in the line-up out of pain. Then they show people how to brush and take care of their teeth.

“We’ve seen some really great changes going back to Guyana, for example. Now when we return, we can focus on restorative dental work like fillings,” said Matson. She and her husband have also been on initial and repeat missions to Mexico, Guyana and Haiti, home of Okanagan Smiles’ first trip three years ago.

Since then, the Kelowna dentists, still in their thirties, have made thousands of mouths smile around the world. Taking time out of their own busy dental practice—Okanagan Smiles is celebrating two and a half years in business—is important to both of them, said Visscher.

“To us, it’s what we should be doing—helping people who have no hope.”

Just Posted

Kelowna food drive helps end hunger

The JCI Kelowna Valleydrive will collect donations from Save-On-Foods locations

World Down Syndrome Day: The up side of Down

A Kelowna family’s journey with Down Syndrome: ‘There is tremendous beauty in these kids’

UBCO students experience homelessness

Kelowna - Students collect donations for H.O.P.E. Outreach and live outside for five days

Kelowna is sweeping up what winter has left behind

City of Kelowna goes into street sweeping.

Cure for Alzheimer’s disease remains elusive

Complexity of the brain still defies discovery of drug treatment

Well-matched, Rockets vs Ams in round 1

Kelowna and Tri-City split four meetings during the WHL’s regular season

Starbucks to unveil latest creation: crystal ball frappuccino

The limited-edition drink will be available starting March 22

Eight B.C. restaurants among website’s top 100 in Canada for night out

Seven in Vancouver and one in White Rock make OpenTable’s list of popular spots

10 in jail months for punch with ‘catastrophic consequences’

Judge had to weight severe consequences for victim against an accused who didn’t fit the bill

Waters: Kelowna council’s so called ‘rubber stamp’ runs out of ink

Kelowna council says no to not one, but two, residential developments at one meeting

DeHart: Meet the largest VW dealership in the Interior

Kelowna hotelier Maxine DeHart talks about local business in her weekly column

B.C.-pioneered wood construction on a roll internationally

Washington state considers mandatory engineered wood for public buildings

Star Gazing: The first spiral galaxies

Ken Tapping is an astronomer with the NRC’s Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory, Penticton

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Most Read