Rambam Health Care Campus is participating in the “Smiling for the Community” project to provide dental care to people—primarily women—trapped in a life of prostitution.
Rambam is partnering with the Haifa Health Bureau and the Lewinsky Clinic in a program to provide free dental care for sex workers. The program seeks to open new doors for the women as they embark on the road to recovery. It initially began as a pilot project that later expanded with increased funding, following a 2021 Israeli law banning prostitution.
“The encounter with patients who come from this life is complex,” explains Professor Eli Machtei, Director of the Rambam School of Graduate Dentistry. “Emotionally, these encounters are often accompanied by fear and mistrust on the part of patients, who are not used to putting their trust in medical professionals. It is important for us as educators of the future generation to raise awareness of these values. This is why we have therapists who intern here alongside senior dentists. There is great satisfaction in the success of such treatment and the ability to give the patient the opportunity to feel good about themselves,” said Professor Machtei.
This particular patient population suffers from severe dental issues, often stemming from drug use. In addition, poverty and the high cost of dental care are barriers to receiving the necessary treatments.
Nevertheless, many of these women are determined to change their lives, to find jobs, and to leave the life of prostitution. “I want to look for work, feel beautiful, and feel good about myself. A smile is important,” said Noa (not her real name), a thirty-year-old patient who is currently in the process of getting out of prostitution after giving birth to her second child.
“I have been using drugs for many years. I haven’t received dental care because I don’t have the money for it. When I was offered the opportunity to participate in the project, I didn’t think twice. There is a chance to fix something that is important to me, and I don’t have the option to do it alone. I want to smile without being ashamed,” Noa added.
A variety of treatments are being offered to the women in the project, including extractions, fillings, implants, and root canals.