Desks become operating tables and deflated soccer balls pillows when dentist Dr. Robert Arbuckle sets up shop in impoverished regions around the world.

Arbuckle, who practices dentistry in Wilton and lives in Stamford, goes on yearly volunteer missions to help children with dental needs through an organization called Healing the Children Northeast, Inc.

"These missions are win-win situations. We get to go to cool, amazing places and then the kids get treated," he says. "There are not many things in life that are win-win."

Arbuckle has been on missions to Cambodia, the Amazon, Madagascar, Guatemala, Brazil, Belize and, most recently, Morocco, each time closing his practice for about nine days.

"I just close up shop," he says.

Arbuckle and the other volunteers provide dental hygiene education and do a lot of extractions on their trips.

"We get rid of a lot of teeth," he says. "We pulled over 1,000 teeth in four days in Morocco." He and the other volunteers saw 738 children in the north African country in March. He estimates 600 to 8,000 children are seen per mission each year.

"It is really backbreaking work," he says.

What strikes him the most is how kids are kids, no matter how much pain they are in.

"The chronic pain these kids must live with and they still manage to smile and run around and be kids," he says. "These missions make me realize how blessed we are here. "

Arbuckle says volunteers don't have to be dentists. "You just have to be a willing pair of hands and corral the children."

To find out more about volunteering with Healing the Children Northeast or to donate to Robert Arbuckle's future missions, visit the organization's website.


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