Human trafficking is widely recognized as the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, with more than 40 million victims worldwide, according to the International Labour Organization. To make a difference, Austin Oral Surgery hosts a series of professional training events every year to help dental professionals recognize warning signs that they may uncover while treating patients, as well as what to do with that information to help ensure their patients’ safety.
The 2022 event series wrapped up on Nov. 9, 2022 at Austin Oral Surgery’s annual Hygienists Night Out at Maggiano’s Little Italy, where approximately 140 dental hygienists from across Central Texas received vital training on this important issue.
“Several years ago, one of our oral surgery assistants was treating a patient and noticed something odd that could have been a warning sign of sex trafficking. Thankfully, it wasn’t, but it made us realize that we’re in an ideal position to be able to see warning signs in a way that the general public isn’t. There are several warning signs that can be found in the mouth. Dental professionals need training to correctly identify them and seek help without putting their patients or themselves in danger,” explained Renee Dixon, Austin Oral Surgery’s marketing director.
In addition to training, Hygienists Night Out attendees received dinner, swag bags, continuing education credits, and a presentation on the topic “Manage Your Mind, or it Will Manage You,” by motivational speaker and certified life coach Machele Galloway.
“Having a positive mindset is such an important thing. It can be the difference between success and failure in your personal and professional life, and it also goes along with the whole theme of our event,” noted Dixon. “The right mindset can enable hope and inspire change.”
In conjunction with the event, Austin Oral Surgery also raised $1,230 for Unbound Now and $1,400 for the doTERRA Healing Hands Foundation – two nonprofits that are committed to eliminating human trafficking. In addition, 30 attendees expressed in an interest in volunteer work for one of the nonprofits.
According to Unbound Now, human trafficking is “any time a person is forced, tricked, or manipulated into providing labor or sexual service for someone else’s financial gain. Or, anytime a child is involved in a commercial sex act, whether or not there is someone directly forcing them to do so.”
“A lot of people don’t really understand what human trafficking is. Most people think of it as something that’s happening far away and that we can’t do much to change it. But human trafficking is happening right here, right now, and we can make a tremendous difference, through education and empowerment,” said Sara Nellis, Unbound Now director of early intervention. “I’m a survivor myself, so I can tell you first-hand how important this kind of program is, and how grateful we are for businesses like Austin Oral Surgery, who partner with us.”
Nellis adds that while Unbound Now was founded in 2012, the Austin Chapter is relatively new, so one of the most important things people can do to get involved is to spread the word that the chapter is open and ready to help its community. In addition, Nellis says the chapter needs volunteers, more program partners like Austin Oral Surgery, and referrals – both of potential donors and of anyone who could benefit from Unbound Now’s services.
Austin Oral Surgery has been training dental professionals on this important topic since 2016. To date, the practice has helped train more than 2,500 dental professionals throughout Central Texas and has helped raised more than $30,000 for various nonprofits, who are dedicated to the cause.
“Our next training event will be in Q1 2023, and we urge any dental professionals who haven’t trained on this topic yet, to join us,” said Dixon. “This is vital, important information that all dental professionals and the communities they serve can benefit from, so we want to make sure it is available to all. Human trafficking is a tragedy that affects people worldwide, and the best way to eradicate it, is to fight it together.”
About Unbound Now
Founded in 2012, Unbound Now is a 501c3 nonprofit that is dedicated to extinguishing human trafficking and igniting hope. Unbound Now has three main lines of effort: prevention and awareness, professional training and survivor advocacy. Unbound Now has chapters in Austin, Bryan College Station, Houston, North Texas and Waco. The nonprofit also works in Cambodia, Poland, Indonesia and Mongolia.
For more information, visit unboundnow.org.
The doTERRA Healing Hands Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit that is dedicated to anti-human trafficking efforts, fighting to end modern slavery through prevention, rescue and aftercare. The foundation is affiliated with doTERRA International, which aims to promote sustainable change by supporting initiatives that alleviate extreme poverty, improve quality of life and ensure basic human rights.
For more information, visit doterrahealinghands.org.
About Austin Oral Surgery
When Doctors James Fricke and Sam Fason established Austin Oral Surgery more than 50 years ago, they had one goal in mind: to put patients first. Austin Oral Surgery continues that legacy of exceptional care today, treating patients with a wide variety of oral/maxillofacial needs from wisdom teeth removal and corrective jaw surgery to dental implants and more.
For more information, visit austinoralsurgery.com.