How a predental founded a dental nonprofit

Marco Gargano takes a picture with his “Willowbrook Boys” after coloring superheroes – Nov. 16, 2016

Everything started when I was not paying attention in my chemistry class. I was thinking about why I wanted to become a dentist. Ultimately, I deduced that I simply want to help people smile. As my mind continued racing, I realized that there are good smiles out there. No matter the smile, there is one characteristic that they almost all have in common. Teeth! Teeth are what make a smile beautiful, especially when they are clean, white and natural. Getting checked out regularly by a Dentist Turlock can help you maintain your beautiful clean teeth, so this is something that you need to be doing if you’re not already.

As the chemistry classes continued, so did my thought progression. How can I help people smile as an undergraduate freshman? Searching for ideas, I contacted my friend Jeffrey Kerst, a dental student at Louisiana State University. He told me about LSU’s program called “There’s Magic in Your Smile.” The purpose of the program was to teach children how to properly brush their teeth. Failure to do so often results in visiting the periodontics far more frequently than you would like later in life. Teaching kids dental hygiene seemed simple enough, so I began searching to find similar programs. The results yielded programs that did not fit my vision. There was only one thing I could do, start my own program.

LSU’s program was a good start, but I was confident that more could be accomplished. Discussions about the program at LSU spawned the “Natural Teeth Volunteer Guide.” The Guide contained the description of Natural Teeth and the organization’s mission. We were founded “to promote dental health through education and philanthropy.” Education through our Superhero Program would teach children how to defeat the bad guys: plaque and acid. Philanthropy would be accomplished by garnering donations in order to provide students with dental supplies. Would the children enjoy The Superhero Program? How would I secure donations? I was unsure if Natural Teeth would be successful, but I kept following my vision.

On July 11, 2016 Natural Teeth was registered as an official non-profit. Next we needed to create a website, apply for 501(c)(3) status and build a team of motivated individuals. By August, the goals were accomplished, we now needed students and funding.

Marco Gargano colors with a child at Willowbrook Elementary after completing the Superhero Program – Nov. 16, 2016

At Natural Teeth’s first event, I found myself in front of hundreds of children. I called Jeffery in a panic looking for support and courage to teach our superheroes. After regaining focus, we taught and provided a toothbrushes to 956 superheroes in three days. We increased the number of superheroes to 1,500 by the end of our second event. The events were possible due to donations from Personal Oral Hygiene, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Personal Oral Hygiene became one of our first Natural Partners. Before their generous donation, I had self-funded the organization. We now have multiple Natural Partners, including Google and Community First Trust.

The progress that Natural Teeth has made so far is just the beginning. On April 4, 2017, our Superhero Program split into The Classic Superhero Program and The Emboldened Superhero Program. The Classic will remain the same as the original Superhero Program. The Emboldened has been added to accommodate students with special needs. The Emboldened Superhero Program affords all children the same opportunities.

Above all, the purpose of Natural Teeth is to serve the children. It is for Sarah, age 6, who shares a toothbrush with her brother. She said that “Mommy can’t afford brushes for the both of us.” It is for Josh, age 8, who has never been to the dentist. It is for Alex, age 7, who recently immigrated with his family to America. Sarah, Josh and Alex are just a few of the kids we have been fortunate enough to help. Become involved by visiting, contacting our team or becoming a Natural Partner. The children need you, Natural Teeth needs you, and the world needs you. So join us! Together, we will see a world where ALL smiles come naturally.

~Marco Gargano, University of Arkansas ’19, predental, founder & executive director of Natural Teeth