Dental Clinic in Guatemala

1 Nov

As I thought about the trip I came to appreciate the dental care we have available in the United States.   From basic semi-annual cleaning and checks to fillings, caps, crowns, bridges, implants, root canals and the like we are well cared for. There are a number of dentists available when we need one and they can usually fix whatever problem we might have without resorting to pulling the tooth.  dental clinicOn the first day of the medical clinic in Santa Maria Ixhuatan I volunteered to work in the dental clinic.  I started out as the one who cleaned and sterilized the equipment.   Once I had that mastered I moved to setting up the needles used for the anesthesia.  That was a bit more complicated but after a few instructions I was able to do that as well.  Then came the big step, actually being a dental assistant. After I put on the mask and gloves I was instructed to hold the flashlight, hand them the ‘elevator’, ‘forceps’, and gauze as they extracted the teeth.  I would then take the extracted tooth and put it into the bottle we were keeping all of them in followed by the clean-up phase.

For the most part it went well, usually taking 5-10 minutes per patient but everyone so often it got complicated.  I won’t go into the details because a number of us don’t have the most pleasant memories of visiting the dentist and this would only resurrect those old thoughts.  I was moved by the number of people who have had many of their teeth removed over the years.  We Guatemala Oct 14 trip 094removed one woman’s last 2 teeth.  Removal of teeth, although not the perfect solution does give them relief from the pain of decay and in some cases infected teeth.  Over the two days of the clinic we were able to relieve the pain of 200 bad teeth.

The young people on the trip were valuable parts of the dental clinic. They were responsible for helping with prevention of dental disease by distributing toothbrushes and teaching the kids how to brush their teeth.  There was a good connection between the American kids and the Guatemalan kids.  If we can give them the gift of good dental health maybe we will pull less teeth in the future.

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