El Remate is a small village in Guatemala, which is surrounded by a thick green forest full of animal, steep rocky hills and a very blue lake, lake Peten Itza. It has humid air that can be a little hard to breathe if you are used to a dry climate and the afternoon temperatures can reach up to 100F. El Remate is close to several archaeological site including, Uaxactun, an ancient Mayan civilization. The site of Uaxactun is thought to be interpreted from ancient Mayan hieroglyphics as "Born in Heaven".
Several North Carolina State University students came down to El Remate during their Spring Break to help at the dental clinic. They observed some local dentists make full and partial plates. After observing the dentists for a while they jumped in and helped with the different processes. They were able to see the results of their efforts as the patients walked out with new smiles and in between local patients, they practiced their newly learned skills on each other.
Proper dental care is important not only to prevent cavities and loss of teeth, but to prevent gingivitis which can lead to even more serious systemic infections, for example, endocarditis. Endocarditis is the inflammation of a lining of the heart that can if not treated quickly requires a heart transplant.
Later, a group of dentists visited from Canada and the United States as part of the "Dentistry for All" program to bring dental care to places where it is often lacking. This village had been on their tour schedule before and they were happy to return. As with the Diabetes clinic, they arrived with supplies for the clinic and found a line of patients waiting to be helped. Some of them were still waiting from the group's visit last year.
They brought all the equipment to make a full set of stations to do cleaning, extractions and even oral surgery. They collaborated on particularly challenging cases. But even more than the dental procedures, they try to make a lasting impact by staying in contact throughout the year and keeping aware of the community's needs. For example, this year they solved an important non-dental problem by donating a used computer for the clinic to hold and process patient data.
Watching this dedicated group of professionals can be very inspiring to anyone who has ever wanted to contribute their skills to a community that badly needs the services. The doctors I talked with were very happy with their experience - several had been on previous journeys like this and encourage other doctors and dentists to continue the trend. But also like the students, some of the dentists had never worked in a developing nation before - they talked about how much they learned by watching the creative and resourceful way people solve hard medical problems with limited resources. They encouraged anyone in a medical field to consider this kind of service, not only to help others but as a learning experience for yourself.
Dentistry For All plans to build a permanent dental clinic in Guatemala.