Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Dental Team in Action

Dental Assistant, Maria Consalvo, demonstrates teeth cleaning to young patient while Mom, brother, and Ursula, a volunteer from Santa Catarina Palopo, look on. Dr. Juan is in background attending to the Mobile Dental Unit, which was donated by Rotary.  

Coming to a place like this, the land of the Maya, one must park one's traditional views and expectations at the door or "suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune". Things hardly ever go according to plan and often more time and energy is spent on attempting to be "organized" than on providing the service.  We are quickly learning both patience and tolerance and realizing that appointments for treatment are more loosely regarded as "whenever they can make it!"  Some people show up on the wrong day or several hours late because something more important came up in the meantime.  Back home we also take for granted that the electricity coming out of the plug is generally 110 V but here it can fluctuate anywhere between 80-150 and our sophisticated dental unit moans when the voltage drops significantly.  We are now well recognized within the community, not totally because we are obviously from somewhere else and wearing "scrubs" but more importantly that we are providing a valuable service and those that come to the clinic are indeed grateful.  It is still very heart rending to see children whose permanent teeth must be extracted because they have never been taught the value of teeth nor given any instruction on how to care for them.  While our immediate concerns are focussed on the clinical side we all agree that education is the key to change.

We were fortunate to connect with a native Guatemalan, Monica Diaz, who is a nutritionist in this area; together we are going to collaborate on a teaching method that will bring understanding to the local people about diet, oral hygiene and the impact of dental health on whole health. This will be our greatest gift to give. Without knowledge and understanding there can be no opportunity of choice and hence responsibility. Our role must go beyond being "fixers". 

On a personal note I must express my deep appreciation to both Maria and Tricia who are totally dedicated to the management of all the records, patient comfort and the numerous duties required to keep everything sterile and in order.  Their days begin early and end late with phone calls and paper work.  In addition they should be commended for their tolerance of my brief moments of frustration when things go sideways. We are proving to be a very dedicated and effective team and we appreciate all the support sent our way by you.
Juan Jose

1 comment:

  1. Thanks to all for the great work you're doing!