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Episode #314: TeamSmile Gives Back, with John McCarthy from TeamSmile

the best practices show podcast Jun 28, 2021

In 2007, 12-year-old Deamonte Driver lost his life. And the cause was a treatable one — if only his mother had dental insurance. Enraged and inspired after hearing Deamonte’s story, Dr. Bill Busch created TeamSmile to provide free dental care for children in need. And today, Kirk Behrendt brings in John McCarthy from TeamSmile to share the impact and importance of dentists participating in this program. For more on why you should volunteer with TeamSmile, listen to Episode 314 of The Best Practices Show!

Main Takeaways:

A 12-year-old boy, Deamonte Driver, passed away from an untreated tooth infection.

Upon hearing Deamonte’s story, Dr. Bill Busch was inspired to start TeamSmile.

TeamSmile’s core is to provide free dental care for children in need through the power of sports.

The TeamSmile model doesn't work without volunteers!

These programs provide life-changing services and can also save lives.


“The mission of TeamSmile is to provide a life-changing dental experience through the power of sports. In a nutshell, what we do is we throw dental tailgate parties. We go into communities such as Milwaukee and we set up in a baseball stadium. We work with the Brewers. We work in Kansas City with the Chiefs, the Royals, in supporting KC. But we’re at the point now where we are truly national. We’re working in Fenway Park with the Boston Red Sox, and we’re in California with the Angels and the Rams, and so on. So, we’re literally coast to coast, north to south.” (05:34—06:08)

“Prior to the pandemic, we conducted 33 programs in one calendar year, impacted 7,126 children, and did over $2.8 million in free dental care and oral health education. But in a nutshell, we create these large dental clinics in stadiums and arenas. We literally set up about $650,000 worth of equipment and supplies while we’re in Fenway Park, while we’re in Target Stadium in Minnesota, while we’re in Arrowhead in Kansas City, and on and on. We work in New Orleans at the Superdome, and Mercedes-Benz in Atlanta — which is spectacular, by the way. But we will set up enough where we’ve got 16 dental operatories.” (06:09—06:54)

“The Deamonte Driver story, in short, was a little 12-year-old boy in the Baltimore D.C. area that had a toothache. Single mother, very little money. Had a toothache. But the mother said, ‘We can't go to the dentist because we don't have dental insurance. We don't have the money to pay for that.’ Well, it got more and more painful, and so he went to the hospital. Dr. [Bill] Busch is watching this at home in Kansas City on an NBC Nightly News special with Brian Williams. Well, [Deamonte] goes to the hospital, and the hospital doesn't have a dentist on staff. They tried to pat him on the back and do what they could for him there and sent him home. That toothache got infected. That infection spread to his brain. At 12 years old, Deamonte Driver passed away. And Dr. Busch — I talked to him a lot about this — he said, ‘I was mad. I was upset, thinking, ‘We live in the most wealthy country in the world, and we’ve got a 12-year-old boy that didn't have to die if he was treated appropriately. Could've been completely fine if he was treated. And here he is, dead.’ And he started thinking, ‘What can I do?’ (07:39—08:39)

“I think this concept was just brilliant, looking at it, because what we do is, not only do we have stadiums and arenas, but we’ve got a DJ for all of our programs, we have face painters, we bring out the players, the cheerleaders, the mascot. And so, what the intent is, is to use these stadiums and use these teams — and by that, I mean players, cheerleaders, mascots — and create an environment that is cool, that is fun, takes the fear out of dentistry. There’re a lot of children that we’re dealing with that have never been to a dentist. They may be 10, 12 years old, and have either never been to the dentist, or they're scared of the dentist. They're a kid, they're afraid that it’s going to hurt, and they're scared. Well, all of a sudden, the fear tends to go away when you start dancing with a mascot, or you're dancing with the cheerleaders there in the stadium. And it creates the cool factor, if you will, for these kids, that they forget about going to the dentist.” (10:05—11:02)

“The core of what we do is free dentistry for children that are at-risk that really need it. But while we’re doing that, we want to make it cool and fun so they're not scared of going to the dentist. We don't want their first dental experience to be one of fear. We want it to be fun and exciting. And through sports, we can do that. And we’re doing it.” (11:18—11:37)

“TeamSmile doesn't work, the model doesn't work, without volunteers. And if you think about it, there were 4,000 people who took their day off to serve others through the TeamSmile model. I'm just awed by that. These dentists closed their practice for a day. Sometimes, it’s their day off. Sometimes, they’ll close their practice and bring their whole staff that'll come out, or even just take the day off. They could be making a lot of money on that day, and they choose to serve others rather than serve their own practice that day. That is so impressive to me. What a great community of people the dental community has provided.” (13:57—14:35)


John’s background. (03:20—05:11)

What TeamSmile is, its evolution, and why it’s so unique. (05:31—09:46)

Why this is an important concept, and why it works so well. (10:04—11:38)

Localized support from the dental community. (12:15—14:41)

The logistics of TeamSmile. (15:49—19:07)

Potential impact of oral health on the world. (19:29—22:07)

Trade support with providing these programs. (22:38—24:41)

How to get involved and volunteer. (24:55—30:22)

TeamSmile contact information. (30:49—31:14)

Reach Out to John:

TeamSmile website: www.teamsmile.org

TeamSmile Twitter: @teamsmile https://twitter.com/teamsmile?lang=en

TeamSmile Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/teamsmile

John McCarthy Bio:

John McCarthy joined TeamSmile as Executive Director in May of 2017. He’s excited to help fulfill the mission of TeamSmile by using sports as a force for good in American society. He believes that this is a tremendous platform to make a positive impact on the lives of thousands of children, and seeks to inspire people to spread kindness, seek peace and happiness, and follow their passion.

McCarthy has been involved in various capacities within college athletics for over 25 years. At the collegiate level, he’s been a Head Coach (Wilmington College, DE), Athletic Director (Lynn University), Founder of the Collegiate Basketball Invitational, and Director of the NAIA’s Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship. He’s currently the Founder and Owner of Small College Basketball (www.smallcollegebasketball.com).

Additionally, McCarthy has been very engaged in the nonprofit community since 2013, as he’s served as Executive Director of Charlie’s House and Development Director of Miles of Smiles. During his time at Charlie’s House, the organization had their four highest fundraising years ever, while distributing more child safety materials and growing the website traffic to new heights.

McCarthy has become one of the country’s preeminent authorities on small college basketball. He has been quoted in USA Today, Basketball Times, The Indianapolis Star, the Wilmington News Journal, The Kansas City Star, and Time-Out (NABC’s publication), among many others.

He’s written the “Foreward” for Danny Stooksbury’s National Title and written articles in the Sports Business Journal, Time Out, Kansas City Star, HoopScoop, and many others.

McCarthy also travels the country, speaking to coaches and athletic administrators at all levels, of all sports, through his nationally-renown presentation, “Lessons of the Legends”.  More recently, his presentations, “Life Lessons” and “The Real Recruiting Process,” have become prominent on the speaking circuit as well. 


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