The dentist’s desire to help people gain healthy mouths has led her to serve both locally and abroad.
Dr. Wendi Wardlaw is passionate about making sure people know how to keep their mouths healthy.
“It really does matter that your mouth is healthy,” said Wardlaw, who practices dentistry at Stoneybrook Dental. “Your mouth is the largest hole to the inside of your body. Because your mouth is in your head, you can’t be healthy without a healthy head. And so people don’t understand that an infection in your mouth — it only has two ways it can go — up (to) your brain and down in your heart. Having a healthy mouth is imperative to being healthy.”
Her passion for making sure people have healthy mouths has affected the way she cares for her patients — both inside her practice and out.
Wardlaw serves as a missionary both locally and internationally, as well as hosts an internationally syndicated radio segment on dental issues.
While serving as a missionary, she has seen firsthand how having a healthy mouth can affect someone.
“When I take something infected out of someone’s mouth, the first and most common thing I that hear — they’ll walk back miles to tell me — ‘my chest (doesn’t) hurt anymore,’” she said. “The systemic connection between your mouth and systemic disease — whether it’s strokes, whether it’s heart disease, diabetes, many cancers — are linked to your mouth.”
Wardlaw started out as a dental assistant in the U.S. Army Dental Corps. She became a dental hygienist. While in military service, she had the opportunity to see different aspects of the business before she became a dentist herself.
She served in the Army Dental Corps for 10 years, from 1988 to 1998. During that time, she took undergraduate courses as she could.
A month after her duty was complete, she enrolled in dental school at Howard University. She then completed postgraduate work at Columbia University.
Her time at Columbia defined her as a missionary.
“Columbia certainly helped me define a place for outreach ministry and outreach dentistry in ministry,” she said. “I could do that, too. I could be a dentist, and I could serve.”
OUTSIDE THE OFFICE
Wardlaw has served as a missionary for the past 13 years.
During her time of doing mission work, she started her own nonprofit, now called Inspired Purpose. She uses the nonprofit to serve with dentistry, but it extends beyond the field into any need Wardlaw sees. The ministry works with other nonprofits and non-governmental organizations.
Through Inspired Purpose, Wardlaw serves locally as well as internationally, in countries such as Nigeria, South Africa, the Dominican Republic, Albania, Ghana and Haiti. She travels internationally at least twice a year.
She recently returned from a trip to an orphanage for children with disabilities in Haiti.
“It certainly has my heart,” she said. “I keep finding myself back there.”
“The systemic connection between your mouth and systemic disease — whether it’s strokes, whether it’s heart disease, diabetes, many cancers — are linked to your mouth.” -Dr. Wendi Wardlaw
Locally, the organization has clothing and shoe drives. Wardlaw collaborates with dentists during their free-dental days. She also travels to schools and talks about dental care and what makes a cavity.
It all comes back to having a healthy smile.
“You don’t have to be a missionary and travel abroad,” she said. “You don’t have to do things that people consider are big things to be a blessing. All you (have to) do is smile. All you (have to) do is be kind to people. That is a part of ministry.”
Wardlaw’s original dream was to find a cure for cancer, and path in dentistry hasn’t veered much from that.
“I was analytical and physical,” Wardlaw said. “The physical and analytical meant a lot to me. Dentistry just has that. It has the hands-on part, and it has the diagnosis part. So, because it fueled that part of me that was itching to find a cure for cancer, I fell in love with it. … Not only that, but what’s better than making smiles? There isn’t anything better than making smiles. I make smiles all day.”
Wardlaw believes firmly that “A Healthy Mouth is a Healthy You” — the name of her radio segment. It airs six days a week and talks about dental topics that patients might not know to ask or don’t understand.
The syndicated program airs in about 200 countries.
In 2008, Wardlaw opened Stoneybrook Dental at 15502 Stoneybrook West Parkway Suite, No. 126. Wardlaw works to keep her practice on time and also offers monitors on the ceiling, massage dental chairs and other features.
“I don’t believe in painful dentistry — I don’t believe in scary dentistry because I want people to be able to get their teeth fixed,” she said.
Contact Jennifer Nesslar at [email protected].