Armed with dental experts from the greater New York City area, Jonathan Zamzok boarded a plane to Chile to make people smile.
This past January marked the first outreach trip for the Greenwich resident's charity, Giving Through Smiles. After they landed in Santiago, an additional flight was necessary to reach the remote Chilean town of Dalcahue. His team of prosthodontists and general dentists from New York, pedontists and residents from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine and a laboratory technician from Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine constructed 30 arches of dentures for adults and treated approximately 200 children for rampant tooth decay.
"I have been blessed in my professional career and now it's time to give back," said the prosthodontist. "I have a new mission in life. I want to pay it forward.”
And that he did, with the help of materials donated by dental supply manufacturers, Ivoclar Vivadent and Ultradent Products Inc. Even Hickory and Tweed, a nearby shop in Armonk, lent its support by contributing a mountain climbing headlight to be used in substitution for a dental overhead lamp.
As Dr. Zamzok now sifts through the hundreds of photographs he took of the experience, the difference he made in the lives of the Chilean locals in less than two weeks is palpable.
He pointed out a 40-year old local woman whose teeth had been badly decayed and wasn't able to find a job because of her embarrassment. After Zamzok inserted her new dentures, she was able to smile proudly for the camera.
“We opened up her life,” he said.
The road to recovery was not a glamorous one, though. Zamzok and the 45 people on this outreach program slept in sleeping bags and treated patients on tables in an elementary school closed for summer vacation.
He says his long-term goal for Giving Through Smiles is for its mission and existence to be sustainable.
“We’re going back to Chile next year and we want to ultimately bring it back to the United States.”
Zamzok’s wife, Diane, is one of the directors of Giving Through Smiles.The couple spends their off-time with son Daniel and daughter Nicole.