Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dental Update from Juan Jose (Dr. John Snively)

I wanted to bring you up to date on the dental service as we are currently able to provide it.  In addition I wish to extend my deepest appreciation to those of you who have offered financial support to this most valuable project.  It is a well known fact down here that, unlike the norm in North America, someone can die from a dental infection, yet the ignorance of such basic knowledge continues throughout rural Guatemala.  Through my work as a "biological" dentist I understand the powerful impact of the dental component on whole health.
Click here to view photos of the Dental Project
Early on in my career I worked as an itinerant dentist in the Canadian Arctic, flying into remote Inuit settlements with portable equipment, but never have I seen such widespread infection, loss of teeth and unavailability of both service and education.  We are truly overwhelmed by the need. We are working in very primitive conditions. 
This photo shows you the "Sterilization Centre" in the village Health Clinic where we have been graciously provided the use of the Doctor's office for our days in the clinic.  That's an ancient aluminum pressure cooker atop a gas range! A single sterilization cycle requires almost 1 hour, not to mention constant monitoring to prevent it from "blowing up".  Understandably, we are called up to perform primary surgical service through extractions; some cases are very challenging with deep and widespread infections.  We see mostly women and children as men are working in the fields or elsewhere. We regularly see young children, age 3 and younger with all teeth decayed to the gumline. It's so tragic! We have a very rudimentary set up, no drills, chair, light, water or suction, so we go through a ton of gauze during/after surgery.  We hope to somehow fundraise for a basic and simple dental treatment centre that can provide more services including an ongoing "basic cleaning" and education centre by training a local young woman to provide these services in our absence.  There is also the potential of attracting other foreign dentists to come and provide service if a clinic is available.
The key is, of course, "Education", for one cannot take responsibility without being properly informed. Toward this end we have begun offering classes to groups of women in several villages, and soon will be doing dental health education presentations through the local school.  It is so gratifying to see the light go on in their eyes through our presentations.We are feeling both inspired and compelled as the need is obvious as is the gratitude of the indigenous people.  What a gift in both directions!
I would like to personally thank all those who have contributed to this, our first dental service visit.  In particular, the Nelson morning Rotary Club, whose generous donation of a "Dental Pack" through HPI contained sundries without which none of this would be possible. In addition, monies were made available through the scarf sales to purchase additional surgical instruments.  Thanks to you as well. And to all of you who are supporting us with your prayers, I am truly grateful.  My heart continues to open in the most magical ways here, and all of you reading this are "making an enormous difference" simply by sending your love.
Mil gracias
Juan Jose


  1. John and Jacqueline
    I have read your blogs and admire all you are doing for the poor and the needy. Your work is deserving of a RI project. I am here to assist you with the paperwork. There is a lot of bureaucracy and strict time lines to follow. Please e mail me details ASAP.
    Best wishes

  2. Thank you for the description and most deeply also for your enthusiasm and commitment.
    Marilyn Miller
    Nelson Daybreak

  3. thank you John and Jacqueline in particulae for bringing the extent of the need to our collective attention. I hope Nelson Rotary and Oak Bay Rotary can together make a difference in support of your personal commitments. John Edgell