Reasons to smile

With a little help from the generous folks at Novelty Hill Family Dentistry, a group of students from The Overlake School gave kids at their sister school in Cambodia reasons to smile.

Overlake students Richa Pardikar

Overlake students Richa Pardikar

Dentistry, students team up to help Cambodian kids

With a little help from the generous folks at Novelty Hill Family Dentistry, a group of students from The Overlake School gave kids at their sister school in Cambodia reasons to smile.

In 2003, Overlake families built the school in the remote community of Pailin with the help of American Assistance for Cambodia. Students, teachers and parents from the Redmond school have continued to make semi-annual visits. On their latest trip, students Alix Andrea, Richa Pardikar, Maris DiPietro, Olivia Corrin, Stephanie Roush, Rob Munoz and Alex Weaver brought dental hygiene supplies and techniques from Dr. Tony Sieu.

When Sieu and his wife Kris opened the dental practice in the Redmond Ridge Marketplace, “we went around to businesses and schools, looking for ways to do P.R. and found out from Overlake’s Web site about their Cambodian school project,” he said.

The cause appealed to him because he was born in Cambodia — he’s been in the United States since 1980, earned his bachelor’s degree at University of Washington and studied dental science at Creighton University in Nebraska.

But perhaps the most compelling factor, said Sieu, was that “I knew that many of these Cambodian children had never had any sort of oral care.”

Kris added, “And remember that not every country has fluoride in their water, so you can imagine how that affects those kids.”

Sieu bought two large models of a tooth and showed the Overlake students how to demonstrate proper brushing.

Vendors who supply Novelty Hill Family Dentistry with samples of toothbrushes and toothpaste contributed extras for the trip to Cambodia. There were enough for all the kids at the Pailin school and leftovers were given to a nearby hospital and community center.

The response was something that the Overlake students will never forget.

Corrin noted, “The kids were so into the toothbrushes and toothpaste … they were comparing toothbrushes with their friends. Lack of dental hygiene causes so many health problems in Third World countries, so I was very excited to be able to teach the kids how to take care of their teeth.”

When the Overlake students passed out toothbrushes, one boy, about seven years old, ended up with a pink Disney Princess toothbrush. One of Corrin’s friends suggested giving him a different design.

She picked out a green one and tried to give it to him, “but he shook his head and clutched onto his pink princess toothbrush for dear life. He loved that thing,” she said. “It must have been 100 degrees outside, 95 percent humidity, and we were in this little classroom teaching 25 kids how to brush their teeth through a language barrier. I honestly cannot think of anything I would rather do. The trip completely changed my life.”

Sieu said he will continue to support the Overlake students in their mission to improve the health of the Cambodian children: “It does change their perspective, their young minds, to see things like that. They are eager to go back.”

Novelty Hill Family Dentistry is located at 22500 NE Marketplace Dr., Suite 201. For information, call (425) 868-6600 or visit

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