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The Pelham dentist helping Ugandans build their smiles

Peter Fritz joins team providing free dental care

Once they heard a team of volunteers from the Build Your Smile Dental Foundation were in Uganda to provide free dental services, people in need travelled from far and wide to seek out help. Pelham dentist Peter Fritz described the experience as a humbling one, knowing that there are many people in the area that don’t necessarily have access to oral health care. Many of the people he helped serve, including children, had never seen a dentist before.

“Once word spread to the surrounding villages that we were there, people were lined up and we did the best we could in the conditions that we had.”

Fritz, who returned home earlier this month, was part of a 15-member team sent by the Build Your Smile Dental Foundation, a not–for–profit committed to making a positive impact on global oral health. The foundation provides dental care including hygiene and extractions to underserved and impoverished communities.

The volunteers converted churches into dental offices. The pews were used as dental chairs and volunteers strapped headlamps onto their foreheads to see inside patients’ mouths. Instead of using a section tool to suck up saliva, Fritz said he would dab a patient’s mouth with gauze.

“We did the best with the conditions that we had. But, there was no running water. There was no electricity but we did bring a generator. There was no dental assistance from a dental hygienist.”

This trip was the first time Fritz travelled to Uganda with the Build Your Smile Foundation. When asked why he wanted to get involved, Fritz said the timing was right.

“Dr. Izchak Barzilay is the CEO of the foundation and he’s a friend of mine. I’ve always admired him and he told me about this trip in the fall. I was going to be in Rwanda anyway at a conference so I decided that this was more important.”

A typical day for Fritz and fellow volunteers would start early in the morning, and wrap up later in the evening. They served on average a few hundred patients at the temporary clinics.

“We would be doing anything from extractions, to cleaning teeth, to providing fluoride for children,” Fritz said. “I was part of the implantology team and we would do between three to six implants every day. Now, we did the impressions and then we’re going to return next year and deliver the teeth.”

Fritz said the response the volunteers received from the Ugandan community was positive, with many expressing their gratitude. Fritz also explained he was honoured to be part of a team that has helped many lives. Dental care is important because not maintaining oral health can cause a range of negative impacts for an individual.

“It's a multifactorial cascade that happens. So first, you’re not able to chew the foods that are good for you. So, your diet is affected, your absorption of nutrients is also affected. The ability to speak is affected if you lose your teeth and can't form words,” he said. “So, there's also a lot of dental pain that goes on with untreated dental conditions.”

Dental Hygiene Canada reports poor oral health is also associated with poor overall health. Oral diseases are associated with other diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

For more information about the Build Your Smiles Foundation, including how to donate, visit