Dentists making a world of difference

Dr. Zara Torre, WA Dental Ellenbook/South Perth Dental Excellence (WA)

Dr Zara Torre is a practicing dentist at WA Dental Ellenbrook and South Perth Dental Excellence who started volunteering with the Foundation five years ago at a Homeless Connect Day in Perth. She now volunteers her time through the St. Patrick’s Community Support Centre dental clinic in Fremantle, which provides dentists with the opportunity to volunteer their time and expertise to assist the local community. 

Dr Torre says that her motivation for volunteering was connected to a lifestyle change after having children that saw her shift from being focused on working six days a week to thinking more about ways to give back and the “Homeless Connect day seemed like a good way of dipping my feet in”. 

Volunteering with the ADHF isn’t Dr Torre’s only experience with giving back to the community, which she says was an intrinsic part of her family life growing up. She volunteered in school holidays to help children with cerebral palsy and when at university for refugee organisations, which was encouraged by her parent’s experiences. ”My parents are migrants and always instilled in us that we live in a country where we have freely received so much, therefore and because of, we should freely give.” 

When asked about what attracted her to volunteering with the ADHF, Dr Torre explains, “I think as dentists we all are called to this profession not purely because of a bottom line, but because we genuinely care about our patients and the outcomes that we tangibly create. “For me, the mandate of the ADHF to work with homeless people and victims of domestic violence (most often the most marginalized or forgotten members of our society) aligns with what it means to be a good dentist. Collectively as dentists, we are uniquely positioned to change lives for the better.”

During her time as a volunteer with the ADHF, Dr Torre has been able to make a difference to a number of patients, but the transformation of one patient comes to mind. Mary (not her real name) lost a full upper denture 11 years previously and had not been able to replace it since. During her initial appointment she did not make eye contact with Dr Torre but after a few appointments to rehabilitate her lower teeth. “She finally received her new smile, and the letter she wrote to me was the most heartfelt and honest expression of her gratitude for changing her life. She reconnected with family members, found confidence and it was really powerful to see the difference a set of dentures made to her life and her exuberance in herself! I feel very privileged to have been a part of her journey,” described Dr Torre.

 

Although feeling that the need for these dental services outweighs her capacity to help, Dr Torre reflects that she feels privileged to be able to have such a far-reaching impact through her dentistry work. “By far the highlight is developing a relationship with some people who unfortunately have had some very difficult lives. It shows them that there are a group of people out there that genuinely care. It gives our patients the confidence to move forward positively, and I have seen first-hand how fixing up the smile of a reformed addict translates to that person then going on to present favourably in job interviews, get a stable job and ultimately stable housing. Or spending time with someone to open up their body language and their demeanor into really believing that they are worthy of something better and empowering them to re-embrace the world”.

 

The ADHF acknowledges the ongoing support of our major industry sponsor, Pacific Smiles Group; the significant support of the wider dental industry around Australia, and the ADA.

To find out more about making a difference through the ADHF’s volunteer programs click here

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