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Lenny Kravitz teams up with his dentist to improve access to care on his home island

April 23, 2019

By David Burger

Kravitz
Thrice as nice: Lenny Kravitz, center, shows off his company’s Twice toothpaste with Dr. Jonathan Levine’s sons Julian and Cody, the co-founders of the company with Mr. Kravitz. The three volunteered their time during a 2019 mission trip to Eleuthera.

New York — In his breakthrough hit “Let Love Rule,” Grammy-winning musician Lenny Kravitz sang,

Love transcends all space and time
And love can make a little child smile

On top of bringing smiles to music fans all over the world, Mr. Kravitz, along with his Manhattan-based dentist Dr. Jonathan Levine, is brightening the smiles of people on his home island in the Bahamas, Eleuthera, through annual humanitarian dental trips.

It’s a mission that some people might find unusual considering his rock stardom until you realize Mr. Kravitz’s motivation.

“I’m invested in this mission everywhere,” Mr. Kravitz said in an email interview with the ADA News during a break on his world tour. “Pragmatically, it just made sense for me to start by acting locally. Eleuthera is my home. It’s where my family is from, and I’ll always have an intimate, spiritual connection to this place. I always want to help my people however I can.” 

Dr. Levine, who has been Mr. Kravitz’s dentist for nearly two decades, said that Mr. Kravitz is deeply committed to delivering access to dental care to the people on the island. “He is a very soulful person,” Dr. Levine said. “He believes charity starts at home.”

Eleuthera is where the New York native Mr. Kravitz, 54, now calls home. Mr. Kravitz is best known for hits such as “Are You Gonna Go My Way,” “It Ain’t Over ‘til It’s Over,” “Fly Away” and the cover song of the Guess Who’s “American Woman.” He won the Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for four years in a row from 1999 to 2002. He has also delved into acting, most notably in “Precious” and “The Hunger Games” series.

Kravitz
Teamwork: Dr. Levine’s GLO Good Foundation teamed up with musician Lenny Kravitz’s Let Love Rule Foundation to bring free dental care to more than 400 Eleuthera locals in 2019.

Come together

In January, Kravitz’s Let Love Rule foundation and Dr. Levine’s GLO Good Foundation went to Eleuthera and once again offered free dental care to more than 400 locals. With only one dentist on the island, the people of Eleuthera lack access to care and need help, Dr. Levine said.

“Oral health is a big deal, because it can indicate signs of other issues and offer what can sometimes be a life-saving warning,” Mr. Kravitz said. “More than that, it’s your smile. If you’re proud of your smile, you’ll show it off. You’ll exude happiness. You’ll connect with people around you. You’ll live longer.”

Mr. Kravitz continued. “In underserved countries, it’s easy to fall out of an oral care routine, so tooth decay runs rampant. People have no access. That’s why it’s a crisis. We wanted to give Eleuthera access with our trips and a year-round medical dental clinic. That’s the mission. I could see the difference on those first few trips. Everybody can’t wait for the GLO dentists to come back. It’s a great feeling.”

Dr. Levine and his wife Stacey began the GLO Good Foundation with a trip to Rwanda a decade ago. “There’s an inequality of access to care globally,” Dr. Levine said. “As an individual, there’s so much we can do. All of us need a pathway, and that what we’ve tried to.” The Levines partnered with Foundation Rwanda to provide oral health screenings and education to more than 200 women and their children born of rape during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

“Our trip to Rwanda early on was life-changing,” Ms. Levine said. “It proved our mission was right. It showed us the power behind the smile, and how when you change a smile, you restore and change a life.”

Kravitz
Call to action: Lenny Kravitz, left, gathers with a group of volunteers during the 2019 mission to Eleuthera organized by GLO Good Foundation and Mr. Kravitz’s Let Love Rule Foundation.

Family ties

Dr. Levine said Mr. Kravitz developed a friendship that has only grown in the past years.  “We’ve become very close,” Dr. Levine said. “We’re a close, big family.”

Ms. Levine agreed. “Lenny is a rock star that wants to be a dentist and Jonathan is a dentist that wants to be rock star,” she joked. “Lenny is family. When you spend time with people you love doing good, magic happens. In addition to supporting him on his rock star journey, we have shared the deepest commitment to service together on our missions, tireless days and nights, emotional highs and lows, which has created a bond and trust like no other.”

His connection to Dr. Levine and his family runs deep, Mr. Kravitz confirmed. “Doc has been my dentist and my friend forever,” he said. “Every time I’m in New York, we get together. When I heard about what he was doing with GLO Good around the world, I asked him to come to Eleuthera and work with Let Love Rule.”

Dr. Levine said Mr. Kravitz’s request was simple. “Lenny said to me, ‘You have to help my people.’”

“Given our relationship, we were both excited and got right to work,” Mr. Kravitz said. “It all happened very naturally. GLO Good made their first trip four years ago. That one was transformative for everybody. We were able to introduce quality dental care, offer education and give people their smiles back on the island. It’s grown every year and continues to. That’s exciting. I think there’s even more ground we can cover. We’ve really just scratched the surface here.”

Kravitz
Giving back: Dr. Jonathan Levine takes a look at a patient’s mouth during a volunteer mission on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas in January. Dr. Levine’s GLO Good Foundation teamed up with musician Lenny Kravitz’s Let Love Rule Foundation to bring free dental care to more than 400 Eleuthera locals in 2019.

It ain’t over ‘til it’s over

Part of covering more ground includes creating, of all things, a toothpaste company with Dr. Levine’s two adult children, Julian and Cody. The toothpaste is called Twice, intended to raise funds to expand the Eleuthera clinic to include medical services. “As far as our mission, we tried to build that opportunity into our work with Twice,” Mr. Kravitz said. “Ten percent of all profits benefit the GLO Good Foundation.”

The foundations plan on going back to the Bahamas in 2010 because of what has been achieved so far. “On our first mission together in Eleuthera we saw the power of the smile, when it is lost and when it is found, seeing the problems and pain people had and how a new smile changed their lives,” Ms. Levine said. “One example is when we saw a man shave a mustache after his smile was restored. He was no longer embarrassed to share his smile.”

“As a patient, Lenny has an elevated understanding of good dentistry — he lives a healthy life and knows the importance of the healthy mouth and healthy body connection,” Ms. Levine added. “The only problem we may ever have is getting on his busy calendar, but he has figured out to prioritize this too. He is committed to this mission, to do more and get others involved to improve lives. He is family — the best partner. We love him.”

Mr. Kravitz has a message to share with other people looking to help out their communities. “If you’re inspired, there are many ways to help,” he said. “Not everyone has to go to a foreign country and assist dental missions. There are little things you can do locally. Find those charities and missions that speak to you and get involved.”

Lyrics from another song, “Dig In,” performed by Mr. Kravitz, give insight into his own driving force as an agent of change.

When the mountain is high
Just look up to the sky
Ask God to teach you
Then persevere with a smile

Ultimately, Mr. Kravitz said, “Everything means more when you’re able to give back.”

To learn more about the GLO Good Foundation, visit glogoodfoundation.org/.

To learn more about how to get involved in international volunteering, visit the ADA Foundation’s website, ADAFoundation.org/internationalvolunteer. The ADA Foundation is also sponsoring a course on international volunteerism during the 2019 ADA FDI World Dental Congress. To register, select the course International Dental Volunteer Projects: Best Practices (4500).