Schae Richards, community editor 

Daren Gehring, DDS, of Cache Valley Pediatric Dentistry has traveled to third-world countries with other local dentists for seven years to provide dental care and humanitarian services to young men and women who don’t have these services available to them.

His humanitarian expeditions are prepared by Smiles for Central America, an organization that delivers humanitarian aid to those preparing to serve full-time missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Those who attend these clinics can travel five, sometimes 10, hours to spend the day receiving haircuts, medical exams and dental treatment. “For most of them, it’s the first time they are getting dental work done, and is probably the last time they will get it,” Dr. Gehring said.

Dentists, orthodontists, oral surgeons and physicians work tirelessly for five full days, treating between 700 and 900 patients in that time. Dr. Gehring typically sees about 50 patients during his visits. This year, Dr. Gehring had the chance to serve with Chad Harris, DDS,  of Smithfield Dental Care and his daughter, Cambrie. Jon Robison, MD, a local anesthesiologist, has also joined these expeditions.

Beyond the medical and dental services, those volunteering in the clinic serve in other ways. Prior to his last trip, Dr. Gehring and his wife, Emily, joined volunteers from their church and assembled hundreds of hygiene kits, blankets and other supplies to bring with them on their trip to distribute to different homes, hospitals and orphanages. “We also visit a church congregation and give humanitarian supplies to those families,” he said.

Dr. Gehring and Emily travel at least once a year for an expedition like this, and usually bring one of their children along. They have taken their three oldest children so far, visiting El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Emily said their family is one of the main reasons why they got involved with Smiles for Central America.

“We were looking for a humanitarian option so that we could give back,” Emily said. “We also wanted an opportunity to show our children a different perspective on life and living.”

While every trip has its own highlights, Dr. Gehring said the patients are what make the experience wonderful. “On this last trip, there was a patient that had had a broken tooth since he was 9 years old, and as a result, didn’t like to smile. After we fixed his tooth, he was bouncing around the clinic showing everyone his new smile,” he said. “It’s a great feeling to make a difference in someone’s life, and give them their confidence back.”

Emily said these humanitarian expeditions have been a great reminder of the importance of service for their family. “When asking our son, Chad, ‘What did you take away from this trip?’ he said he came home more grateful for what he has,” she said. “The importance of service can give us a feeling of purpose and happiness.”

Dr. Gehring said no matter how small they may seem, there are always opportunities to serve one another, even here in Cache Valley. “There are plenty of people here that need the same kind of services,” he said. “If you can step outside of the world, you can forget about yourself and change the world.”