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Helping spread smiles around the world

By Chu-Ling Yee
La Habra Journal

Dr. Douglas Daniels, DDS, believes that there is nothing greater than giving to others, and when he was asked to help in the South Pacific, he immediately said yes.

Photos courtesy  Dr. Daniels office  Open wide: Dr. Douglas Daniels of La Habra helps residents of Fiji as part of a volunteer group to lend their dental skills to this in the South Pacific.
Photos courtesy Dr. Daniels office
Open wide: Dr. Douglas Daniels of La Habra helps residents of Fiji as part of a volunteer group to lend their dental skills to this in the South Pacific.

He temporarily closed his dental practice, Daniels Dental Care in La Habra, leaving the country in February and March to help others at the Mission in Natuvu Creek on the island of Savusavu, Fuji.
Daniels volunteered to perform oral surgeries, examinations of the islanders’ teeth and gums, and provide information to the residents about oral health. All of this was free of charge.
Last year, Fiji-based Dr. Marta Tooma, a dentist, and her husband Dr. Tom, an ophthalmologist, asked Daniels to volunteer at the Mission at Natuvu Creek, which they founded in 2008. In 1985, he envisioned himself helping others, particularly in the South Pacific, and so going to the Mission in Natuvu Creek was his dream coming true, he said.
Daniels traveled with two other dentists, one doctor and 16 students from Pepperdine University to the island. The students, who majored in a medical or dental field, were given the chance to further their education by assisting the specialists. Medical doctors, dentists and ophthalmologists who all volunteered their time at the facility. The facility provides medical, dental and optometry services as well as hearing aids.

Ensuring smiles: Dr. Douglas Daniels (top left) is part of a volunteer group of dental and medical professionals travels each year to the South Pacific islands to help locals with their dental needs.
Ensuring smiles: Dr. Douglas Daniels (top left) is part of a volunteer group of dental and medical professionals travels each year to the South Pacific islands to help locals with their dental needs.

His staff was very supportive when he decided to close his practice and go. He paid for the trip and brought some of his dental supplies with him. Daniels viewed the trip as a way of helping the local islanders receive the help they needed.
“Patients are more than a set of teeth,” Daniels said. “Each patient is a human being consisting of mental, physical, and spiritual needs.”
Each morning, he started work at 7:30 a.m. and worked until he finished providing medical services to the last patient.  While there, he performed several hundred tooth extractions. Many of the islanders walked or traveled six hours in the rain, arriving by boat from nearby islands.
During his duration at the facility, it rained heavily, as it was typhoon season.
“I never really was able to dry off and all my clothes eventually became wet and moldy,” Daniels stated.
When the sun did shine, it was hot and humid. By the end of each day, he looked forward to swimming in the 80-degree ocean water. Daniels said he would gladly make the same decision to go on this trip again, even knowing that the weather would be at times unpleasant.
Daniels never hesitates to help those who do not have access to dentists. He has provided services to the Yamomami Head Hunters in the Amazon, the Oaxaca Indians of Mexico and to Jamaicans. IMG_1431
He credits his training at Oral Roberts University School of Dentistry in 1985 with helping him prepare to help in remote parts of the world. He has learned that giving is more precious than anything and no matter where he is, he hopes to continue to help in any way possible.
“I feel it is my duty to give back to society… a gift that I have been blessed with.”

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.