Valentine’s Day can be one of those holidays many people celebrate with elaborate dinners, chocolates and finding special ways to show love and affection for others.
Dr. Theodore Siegel loves the way he spends Cupid’s favorite holiday. Fourteen years ago, he decided one of the best things he could do as a dentist was to help people who don’t have access to regular dental care.Every Valentine’s Day, Dr. Siegel and his team at Big Smile Dental opens their doors and hearts to the less fortunate and offer them free dentistry. The patients are treated on a first come first served basis. Dentists with Heart was formed in Chicago to help segments of the population who cannot get the dental care they desperately need, every Feb. 14..
Over the years, Dr. Siegel believes this experience has given more back to him personally than any of the costs associated with providing the dental care free of charge. He shares, “I am blessed and thankful for what I have. It feels so good to help others without wanting a single thing in return.” The crowds of thankful people, over five and a half thousand patients and over $2 million in free dental services combined over the years, feel the same.
“This is not just about me,” says Dr. Siegel, “I cannot do all of the helping alone without my army of people helping, too! I am thankful that we are a team who can get together and assist others who need the care most. I get to help treat a segment of the population who cannot afford the care and who unfortunately lack dental benefits. Some people wait every year to attend this event annually. They come from as far away as Indiana.”
Dr. Siegel has recruited many others to help give back a share the experience of giving on Valentine’s Day. Dr. Gary Hosters,a practicing periodontist for more than 25 years in the Chicago area, has been there since the start of Dentists with Heart.
“The real joy is giving back,” Dr. Hosters says. “Always try to provide good dentistry and maintain a positive attitude with your patients, over time, other people will figure out that the noble thing is to give back to others, too. Volunteering your time and services will help provide a new level of happiness, when you can be a part of something bigger than what you do on a daily basis.”
When patients seek treatment, and line up for services in the wee hours of the morning, the doctors provide the services they can and triage issues to get the patients’ mouths as healthy as possible during their visit.
“We see a lot of the same patients year over year,” Dr. Hosters says.
One of the biggest challenges Dr. Siegel faces each year is retaining the volunteers needed to keep the Dentists with Heart Valentine’s Day event in operation. Regardless of the day of the week that February 14 falls on, that is the day spent delivering care. He and a team of periodontists, oral surgeons, hygienists and other dental assistants help make the day a success. Usually, neighboring dentists will help team up to treat as many patients as they can throughout the day. If you’re looking for an opportunity in the Chicago area to give back, the Dentists with Heart initiative is always looking for additional help. In addition to the day of free dental care, Dr. Siegel’s staff at Big Smile Dental provide for multiple programs sending dental products overseas and multiple other activities.
Flowers and chocolates are also nice gifts to give. The real gift is finding dentists like Dr. Siegel and Dr. Hosters who believe the real reward is to give without wanting anything in return. To see a list of other volunteer opportunities outside of the Chicago area, check out volunteer opportunities on the ADA website. We ♥ dentists with hearts like these!
Dr. Theodore Siegel, P.C, is a graduate of the University of Illinois and practices at Big Smile Dental in Chicago. Dr. Siegel has been recognized for the welfare and advancement of human values with the Heroes of Humanity award. Dr. Siegel founded the “Dentists with Heart” charity event in 2007. Over the years, Dentists with Heart has provided over $2 million in dental services combined hosted in Dr. Siegel’s practice.