Dentists Give Jerusalem Kids Free Dental Care

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Christian dentists from around the world are participating in a unique project in Jerusalem to put a smile on the faces of some of the city's neediest children.

Dental care is considered a luxury for the 200,000 children living under the poverty line in Jerusalem. Volunteers are aiming to break that cycle of poverty by providing free dental care and education to Jerusalem's poorest children.

"From 1980s until today we've taken Jewish and Palestinian children, Ethiopian immigrants and Russian immigrants and French immigrants, whoever is living under the poverty line," said Michelle Levin with Dental Volunteers of Israel.

Levin said the clinic treats nearly 4,000 children a year and it is completely free to the patients and their families.

"The only payment that we demand is that they go through the oral health education program," she added. "Every six months they have to go through the lesson and the course again with the hygienist so it's always a slightly different course. And they have to bring their toothbrushes."

Some 150 dentists from abroad volunteer at the clinic each year, including Liisa Weckstrom of the Christian Dental Society in Finland.

"There are two reasons," Weckstrom said. "I'm a dentist. I love my work and I also love Israel."

Dr. Bob Leibler heads the Christian Dental Society in the U.S. He said he has no trouble communicating with his young patients.

"Kids are kids," Leiber said. "It doesn't matter where they are. When you work on kids you have to speak kids language - pat them on the shoulder, re-assure them, ask what their first name is. You just try to relax them a little bit."

And the patients are more than satisfied.

"I heard first of all about the clinic from the social welfare, social services," said parent Sarah Wang. "I couldn't afford to go to any clinic without having to pay a lot of money. And so they told me about DVI which is free and which is really helpful because I'm a single mom and right now I'm not working and my son really needs dental work."

Wang's seven-year-old son Uriel had a root canal two years ago at a private clinic. It was costly and since then Wang could not afford treatment.

"It's a relief," Wang added. "It's a blessing, it's a lot of help and I'm glad. Otherwise I don't know what I would do. I really don't."

*Originally aired May 21, 2010.

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