Word of mouth: Club promotes healthy smiles for all

Founders Breanna, far left, and Ashley Bolliger, far right, donating oral hygiene kits with their peers (Jennifer Chhor and Dennix Bose) and Kristina Ivanovic, Hospitality Coordinator at Helping Hands Street Mission. 

When kinesiology students Ashley and Breanna Bolliger noticed an absence of oral health clubs at McMaster, they took matters into their own hands.

Oral health should be a right and not a privilege, say the two recent McMaster graduates, who are getting oral hygiene supplies to those in our community who need them most.  

The pair established the Healthy Smiles Club in 2021 when their own experiences with orthodontics really drove home how hard it can be to get access to dental care.  

“We have a passion for oral health and strongly believe that every individual deserves a healthy smile,” they say.

The club provides dental kits to Hamilton and McMaster communities and shares information on keeping healthy.

“We are driven by the belief that access to oral health supplies and education should be readily available to all, irrespective of socioeconomic status or background.”

In February, the Healthy Smiles Club partnered with McMaster’s Pre-Dental Club to host a charity bake sale, fittingly named “Sweet Tooth.”

The proceeds from the sale went towards the purchase of supplies for dental kits that they donated to organizations such as Helping Hands Street Mission and Mission Services of Hamilton

Ashley and Breanna Bolliger with Karma Ibrahim, working in partnership with the Pre-Dental Club to host the “Sweet Tooth” fundraiser.

These dental kits are primarily used by families, adults and children who don’t have access to adequate oral health resources, Ashley Bolliger explains. 

“Just knowing the fact that there is a barrier in receiving oral health and hygiene products drove us to create these kits for as many individuals as possible.”

Oral health can have a profound impact on general health and well-being, and research shows dental disorders can lead to chronic health conditions, including an increased risk of cardiovascular, respiratory and metabolic diseases.  

Kristina Ivanovic, Hospitality Coordinator at Hamilton’s Helping Hands Street Mission, has seen firsthand the impact these dental kits can have on the community.

“The oral hygiene products they provided for us have helped us greatly with providing our community with much needed care that we are still benefiting from to this day.”

Marceli Luz, Development Coordinator, Community Partner’s at Mission Services of Hamilton agrees.

“Mission Services was very thankful to receive the Healthy Smiles Club donation. The kits went to our clients at the 196 Youth Program, Inasmuch House, Willow’s Place, and our Men’s Shelter. Their donation had a great impact in our community, and we really appreciate their ongoing generosity.”

While the club shares resources on social media to raise awareness for their initiative, the Bolliger sisters say there is no substitute for building relationships with community members.

Participation in the Healthy Smiles Club has grown in the two years since its founding, with the club expanding to ten members in 2023. To entice even more students to take an interest in oral health and community outreach, the co-presidents hope to ratify the club through the McMaster Student Union this year.

But for the Bolliger sisters, their main hope is that the Healthy Smiles Club will continue to make a positive impact within the community.

“It’s remarkable to see how many students are interested in oral health and recognize it as something that is a barrier in the community. This impact is something that we are all working towards and striving to achieve.”

For more information on ways to make an impact visit Healthy Smiles Club on Instagram.

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