NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Members of the Southern Nevada Dental Society came together this holiday season to support the fourth Annual Operation Dental Elf.
Operation Dental Elf is a charitable program developed by Robert Anderson, Southern Nevada Dental Society executive director, where local Nevada dentists collect gifts to donate to the 99th Dental Squadron who distributes them across the base to deployed service member families.
“It’s a unique program because our dentists collect gifts for -[children] and spouses, we turn [the gifts] over to the dental squadron, and then [they] get distributed on the base,” said Anderson, who used to work here as a civilian for the services squadron.
The outreach benefits deployed service members’ families and acts as a good way to keep communications and cooperation open between the dental squadron and the Las Vegas dental community.
“We cooperate every year on ‘Give Kids a Smile,’ a nationwide event held the first weekend of February, and the dental squadron and the residents there all come down and participate with our dentists,” Anderson said. “Last year, we treated 220 [children].”
During the holiday season while many spend time with their families, some service members continue monitoring the front line, but while they’re gone, their families make due, Anderson said.
“I was a single parent when I was out working at Nellis,” Anderson said. “I just imagine the families looking at the checkbooks and the credit card statements knowing that the holidays are coming and having to put together a family Christmas on their own while mom or dad is overseas. I want to make sure that they know they’re remembered, and they’re part of what makes the Air Force such an amazing organization. The families are just as much a part of it as active duty [Airmen].”
Dental squadron members said they were appreciative of the partnership and generosity of the Southern Nevada Dental Society.
“I thought it was really generous, because there are a lot of good events or different things that happen around Christmas time,” said Maj. (Dr.) Sterling Whipple, 99th DS endodontist. “There are lots of people asking for donations, so I thought it was kind of nice that they’d give it to the base.”
This year’s Operation Dental Elf was the largest yet, and Anderson said he hopes to see the program continue to grow in the future.
“I think people like the dental connection and knowing that everything stays in the Las Vegas community and the fact that it’s going to people who really deserve the attention,” Anderson said.
The Las Vegas dental community teams up twice a year to help out their local community, once for the national “Give kids a Smile” day and the other for Operation Dental Elf.
The Southern Nevada Dental Society is part of the American Dental Association, the largest dental organization in the world. In southern Nevada there are almost 550 dentists who are members.