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UB dentist spending the holidays putting smiles on Lebanese refugees

University at Buffalo

During this holiday season, many are enjoying family, friends and the joy of the time. A University at Buffalo doctor is going into an area many are fleeing and doing good.

Dr. Othman Shibley is in Lebanon, ready for days of performing dental work on people who need it. The UB Dental School professor has made a series of visits into dangerous areas of the Middle East to treat mostly refugees.

Usually, Shibley works with American volunteer dentists, but this year he won't let them visit Lebanon because of massive political unrest. They will join him when he moves into refugee camps in Iraqi Kurdistan. He is expecting to treat around 2,000 patients, working with Lebanese dentists.

Shibley said people need to come to the birthplace of three religions and help others.
"I thought to myself, it is us that we can make a holy time and holy place when we make a difference in people's life," he said. "So that was my intention that, let's go even though it is Christmas, even though it is New Year's [Day]. People there are staying with the family, but let's go help those people."

Shibley said he and other dentists from UB have developed procedures to speed up treatment, with the latest techniques.

"If they do not have cavities, we apply fluoride varnish. If they do have cavities, they will be categorized into two categories, with pain or no pain. No pain, we will apply the best material, with silver diamine fluoride that will stop progression of the cavities, will stop the progression. But if there is pain, then we will do surgical extraction," Sibley said.

Shibley is taking a large quantity of donated material along. He is working through his UB Miles for Smiles Program and with charitable help. In the last seven-years, the UB professor has helped open and support more than 20 dental clinics for Syrian refugees and in the Kurdish region of Iraq. There are one million refugees from Syria in Lebanon.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.