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Smile/Susan Dey

When I was fresh out of college and living on my own, I had, every year, a Happy Birthday Susan Dey party. I had been obsessed, years earlier, with Dey’s character, Laurie, on The Partridge Family. Since I had, and played until it was deeply grooved, my Partridge Family Up to Date album…I knew the actress’ birthday was December 10. The cover of that album, similar to the band’s TV bus, was a highly colorful pastiche of geometric shapes with the birthdays of the cast members, even Tiger the dog, proudly printed. Since my birthday was a day later, it allowed me to throw a birthday party, actually for myself, without having to tell anyone it was secretly about me.

Probably the best-remembered Laurie-centric Partridge Family episode was when Laurie had to get braces on her teeth (and was tuning in radio waves in her head), and like so many of the teen and ‘tween audience, was far to embarrassed to smile.

OK–hold on tight–sharp turn ahead…how’s THAT for an over-the-river-and-through-the-woods way to get to the topic of volunteer charitable organizations dedicated to dentistry and making kids smile? The following programs, both international and domestic, need volunteers to keep their important oral health programs going. Some require volunteers who are licensed dentists or dental techs, but many also have travel and volunteer opportunities for non-professional volunteers. All it takes is a big, open heart.

Mercy Ships (, doing cleft palate surgeries in Africa)

Center for Cultural Interchange (, youth dental clinics in Argentina)

Amazon-Africa Aid (, volunteer dental clinics in Brazil)

Crisis UK (, dental care for homeless in and around London)

Dental Volunteers for Israel (, children’s dentistry in Jerusalem)

Himalayan Dental Relief Project (, oral health in Nepal)

Health Volunteers Overseas (, dental camps in many areas, including volunteer programs in Tanzania)

International Smile Power (, dental clinics in small villages through developing nations)

East Meets West Foundation (, dental outreach in Vietnam)

Operation Smile (, cleft palate and facial deformity correction surgeries through developing nations)