Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version Share this

June 1, 2009 (La Mesa) -- Jeff Gray, DDS, recently led a team from his La Mesa office on a 10-day humanitarian mission to provide dental care to people living in rural villages in the Dominican Republic. Originator of Smiles for Life, an annual fundraiser for children’s charities supported by more than 800 dentists nationwide, Gray has committed half of the SFL funds raised this year by his office to the Dominican project. Smiles for Life continues through the end of June. People have their teeth whitened at a discount, and 100% of donations go to the SFL Foundation, which has partnered with Garth Brooks’ Teammates for Kids.

Photo: Mary Gray anD Patsi Smith, registered dental hygienists from the La Mesa office of Jeff Gray, DDS, with village children at Mata Vaca Guerra community center in the Dominican Republic.

One recipient for funds raised by “Smiles for Life” has been “Smiles for Hope,” an outreach dental clinic program in San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic. Dr. Roy Hammond and his wife Frances established the Smiles for Hope Foundation and, working with the Smiles for Life Foundation and the Crown Council – which is comprised of more than 800 dentists nationwide -- the Hammonds welcome three dental clinic teams a year, each with up to 30 doctors, dental hygienists and assistants.

Dr. Jeff Gray and his wife Mary, a registered dental hygienist herself, and two members of the dental team at their La Mesa office, worked in outreach dental clinics to some of the remote under-served villages in need of dental care during a 10-day humanitarian trip this March.

“Thirty is how many will fit into a bus to travel from San Pedro to serve the dental needs of families who live in remote, under-served villages or ‘bateys,’” explained Mary Gray.
The Grays are residents of Ramona. Also registered dental hygienists, Patsi Smith and Kim Wells are residents of Poway. In addition, Dr. Michelle Yamada, whose dental practice is in the Pacific Beach area, and two of her staff joined the team.

“Our host group in the Dominican for these outreach programs is Esperanza International,” explains Mary Gray. “They speak the language, plan which villages, or bateys, we will work in, usually one of the communities where they have a relationship.”

During their week in the Dominican, more than 750 patients were treated by their 30-member team. Mary, Patsi and Kim provided one-on-one training to three Dominican hygienists as well.

Said Patsi Smith: "It was an amazing experience. It felt good to be able to help those that needed our care."

Dr. Gray’s Blog

In a blog report of the trip, Jeff Gray encouraged other dentists to enlist for the Dominican Republic project. He wrote:

“My team and I just returned from the Smiles For Hope trip and I must say it was fantastic. Dr. Roy and Frances Hammond have created a quite a program. We are supposed to be down there helping the people but in reality they are helping us.

“You will see things that will rip your heart out and then see things that make it swell with joy. You will return with an entirely new group of friends and also with a sincere appreciation for just how lucky we are to live in the US and the many things we take for granted.

“I could not recommend a human experience more highly. You are very safe and our guides/escorts from Esperanza are really wonderful human beings as are the people we care for. You will have plenty of safe food and water (not always hot) and you will develop a new appreciation for the many ways to cook chicken. :)

“You will do lots of dentistry in unique settings along with laughing, smiling, and feeling really lucky that you had the experience of having your heart and eyes opened by a beautiful group of people.”

Local Dentists Determine Half of Donations

For the past few years of the annual Smiles for Life campaigns, participating dentists have been given the opportunity to donate half of the money their office raises to local or other children’s charities of their choice. The other half goes to the SFL Foundation. More than $25 million has been distributed over the past 10 years.

Mary Gray said this year, half of funds raised at their La Mesa office will go to Smiles for Hope in the Dominican Republic, a country that shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

“When I look at the pictures we took during our time there and remember the people and how grateful they were for our care,” she says, “it gives me a good feeling to have been able to serve them and to have been a member of our team.”

The office of Jeff Gray DDS is at 8555 Fletcher Parkway, Suite 102, in La Mesa. Call 619-337-7700 or go online to for more information. To locate a participating area dentist to whiten your teeth and make a donation to Smiles for Life.

Error message

Support community news in the public interest! As nonprofit news, we rely on donations from the public to fund our reporting -- not special interests. Please donate to sustain East County Magazine's local reporting and/or wildfire alerts at to help us keep people safe and informed across our region.