My first trip to Jamaica, to a Sandals resort, and to a [GreatShape! Inc.] 1000 Smiles volunteer dental project, far exceeded any wild dreams I had about the experience,” says Dr. Neil Hiltunen, founder of the Retired Dentist Association.

The happiness and joy of the Jamaican people has rubbed off onto Dr. Hiltunen, as he incorporates parts of their culture into his life. If a person in Jamaica passes someone on the street, it is an insult not to cheerfully greet that person. It is “probably not a bad idea to incorporate this attitude into our own lifestyle,” says Dr. Hiltunen.

The patients that Dr. Hiltunen worked with are filled with heart-felt gratitude that cannot be expressed. “Perhaps the most joyful patient was a young woman who had a central incisor severely discolored with decay. Tom placed a beautiful composite resin that made this woman’s smile even more radiant because of her joy and improved self-esteem” writes Dr. Hiltunen.

While volunteering in Jamaica, Dr. Hiltunen kept a blog detailing his daily experiences and the impact that the 1000 Smiles project made in his life. He writes, “Not only does it seem that the people of Jamaica are the friendliest people on the planet, but also this Great Shape organization is composed of remarkable people doing remarkable things.”

Dr. Hiltunen was part of a group of motivated, 1000 Smiles volunteers from the United States, Canada and Jamaica that provides dental care and education to rural areas in Jamaica.

Read more at Dr. Hiltunen’s blog:

Dr. Hiltunen with his dental assistant, Pam, and a young girl with her two sisters