Some underprivileged populations or regions recovering from disasters have a surplus of donated clothes and staple foods while other needs fall through the cracks. Things that are considered everyday items in privileged societies can be easily overlooked by non-government organizations and philanthropic entities.
William S. Boyd School of Law student Hunter Davidson and a few friends identified one of those needs, something so simple yet so essential that to be deprived of one can lead to disease and death — the toothbrush.
As vice president of nonprofit Operation Brush, Davidson works to make environmentally friendly toothbrushes available in places where tools for good oral hygiene are scarce.
“My best friend deserves all the credit for starting it off about two years ago,” said Davidson. “I got involved a little over a year ago now, just as a means of giving back. I grew up pretty fortunate.”
The Bonanza High School graduate and current JD/MBA dual degree program enrollee was inspired after taking an undergraduate course in the economics of developing nations. Dane Jonas, then a business management student at UNLV, had founded Operation Brush after finding out nearly half of the people on Earth didn’t have toothbrushes, and provided a non-profit opportunity in which Davidson could participate.
Links to Chronic Disease
“It is a big deal,” said Davidson. “Poor oral hygiene can lead to tooth decay and gum disease, but there’s a lot of chronic diseases that are linked to poor oral hygiene as well.”
Those diseases include cancer, diabetes, memory loss from Alzheimer’s and dementia, and premature births. Operation Brush provides the tools for disease prevention by distributing products from Florida-based WooBamboo to Costa Rica, Haiti, Kenya, and Thailand via partners established in those locales. By supplying bamboo toothbrushes instead of plastic, Davidson and company ensure they’re not creating a problem for the environment.
Davidson — a junior staff member of Nevada Law Journal who is considering sports and entertainment law, transactional law, or investment banking as career paths — would like to distribute brushes personally someday.
He said Operation Brush may soon be able to send biodegradable floss in biodegradable containers along with the brushes.
“It’s almost so startling for a kid (to receive one of the toothbrushes) because in many cases they don’t even know what to do with it,” Davidson said. “We have to give full instruction on how to use a toothbrush that you and I probably had when we were toddlers, except in some cases here they’re much older — 9, 10, 11 years old. They’ve never had access to a toothbrush.”