As Natalie said earlier, I went on a dental mission trip to the Dominican Republic. It was an amazing experience to give free dental care to the Dominican people. I spent the week in the pediatric clinic because I'm going to be applying to Pediatric Dental Residency programs soon, and I wanted to get some more experience with children. We started off most days treating special needs children, then we spent the rest of the day treating children from local schools or children who came with their parents. I wish that I could have spent more time there because we didn't have enough time to perform the level of dentistry that I would have liked to have provided those patients. We had to get through as many patients as we could, so it felt like we were putting out fires, or at least postponing them. The Dominican children like to chew/suck on sugar cane, so there were tons of cavities in the children that we saw. I got to do a bunch of fillings, extractions, cleanings, etc over the course of four days. There were 25 students and 15 faculty and staff members (dentists, nurses, translators, etc) who worked together to treat over 500 patients. I loved that we were able to work much quicker than at the dental school, were able to get a lot of experience and help a lot of people. I was grateful for my Portuguese abilities because I was able to mostly communicate with the patients so that I could be the main translator for the pediatric room by the third day.
The Dominicans were very patient, as they sat for hours waiting for their turn to be treated. Some people waited multiple times, as they wanted/needed extractions, fillings and cleanings. I was surprised at how patient they were and how kind they were with us considering how long they had to wait for their treatment. They were so grateful for us to be there and can't wait for us to come back next year.
This is Jason Bennion (one of my studly classmates), who is cleaning a patient's teeth. Sometimes we had to get into awkward positions in order to get their teeth cleaned while sitting in normal chairs.
In the pediatric clinic we would start the day with treating special needs children. We would strap them to a papoose board and get them whatever treatment we could. In this picture is Dr. Wells (an awesome pediatric dentist from my dental school, and is treating the patient in this picture), Dr. Delucia (a pediatric dentistry resident who went to my dental school, and standing next to me), and two Dominican dental students who translated for us and helped us out with treating the kids. This was the first day of treatment, and they would show me how to treat the special needs children. As the day and the week went on, I got more confidence and performed more of the treatment myself. I'm now a lot more confident with being around special needs patients and am looking forward to more training with such wonderful individuals.
During the trip I even got to do some esthetic cases, which I wasn't expecting to do. I was able to close a 3-4mm diastema on a patient that said that the biggest problem in life was his teeth, and I was able to make a teenage girl's front teeth look great (picture below). Hopefully that'll give them some more confidence and reasons to smile. The girl in the picture has huge interproximal cavities between her front teeth, and I think that her teeth turned out looking great!
Ezra Boekweg, another awesome dental student from my year, was able to do a different esthetics case on the boy below. Again, I think that the results are fantastic. I have a before and an after picture.
I had such a great experience that I would love to continue to go on dental mission trips throughout my dental career.
This was a little school girl who came in to the clinic. We gave the children goody bags with dental supplies and toys like sun glasses, tennis balls, rings, etc. The kids didn't always fit in the camping chairs that we had, so we would put suitcases on top of the chairs and then have the kids sit on the suitcases.
This was the operatory that I used for the week. There's a mobile dental unit with hand pieces and suction, a camping chair for the patient and a normal chair for me. I was lucky to have a good dental unit and a room that wasn't too crowded.
While we worked hard, we stayed at a resort on the beach, so we got to play on the beach and watch the sunset every night. I loved playing beach volleyball after a long day of work. Wouldn't that be fun to do everyday?
We also got to go up to the top of a mountain and look out at Puerto Plata, and see the Christ statue at the top of the mountain.
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