Mobile Dental Outreach in Guatemala

Mobile Dental Outreach in Guatemala

The Rotary Club of Hendersonville Tennessee was first made aware of the hopeless plight of children and adults in Guatemala eighteen years ago through the efforts of one of their own members, Pediatric Dentist Bill Taylor.  Dr. Taylor who had been on several mission trips in the area, shared with fellow Rotarians that many of these children have never had access to a dentist or medical doctor.  These represent the poorest of the poor.  Since then, Hendersonville Rotarians have embraced international service through an annual dental and medical mission to Guatemala.  Dr. Taylor has led the group each year since the first trip.  Hendersonville Club members have partnered with the Rotarians in a Guatemalan Rotary Club - Las Americas to bring dental and medical services to poverty stricken children.  Hendersonville Rotarians are joined in Guatemala with local dentists and a physician who conducts medical screening.  Dentists, nurses, dental hygienists, pediatricians, an orthopedic surgeon, optometrists, psychiatrists and other health professionals, along with numerous lay assistants from the Hendersonville club have responded to the desperate needs of the children by working on this project.  In 2012, psychological screening was added to the array of services provided by this health cooperative.  These screenings have identified a new set of needs and some relief from the negative impact of the daily circumstances encountered by those on the lowest end of the economic spectrum.  In the short time this part of the program has been in existence, it has provided substantial relief for those who participate in it.   The program’s work to date indicates not only very positive results for those participating, but also a great deal of work yet to be done.  

Every year, between eight and fifteen Hendersonville Rotarians travel to Guatemala, always at their own expense, to participate in this humanitarian work. Since the program began, almost 14,000 disadvantaged children and adults who, otherwise would not have had access to professional healthcare, have received over $4,000,000 in dental, optical, psychological and medical services calculated by U.S. standards, in settings as remote as a Guatemalan jungle hut or a newly established hospital. These medical trips are some of the highest achieving continuing international projects in Rotary. This program exemplifies Service Above Self.  

However, the Guatemala Las Americas Rotary Club and the Rotary Club of Hendersonville wanted to enhance the existing project by expanding the dental mission to include dental restorative work instead of only providing tooth extractions.  This improvement would necessitate the purchase of sophisticated mobile dental equipment.  The two Rotary Clubs applied for and received a $52,392.00 Rotary Global Grant. With this Global Grant, the clubs purchased eight portable Rota-Dent dental units, eight portable dental chairs, compressors and surgical hand tools.  Pelican carrying cases were also purchased for the expensive dental hand tools.  These key dental items were distributed to three dental venues in Guatemala that served the poor throughout the country:
•    Casa Aleluya Orphanage - Mike Clark, Chairman
•    Ariden Foundation - Dr. Edwin Perez
•    Dr. Mike Kadera Outreach - REMAR & VERBO Orphanages

In addition to the on-site extractions and restorative work, patients are provided with toothpaste, a toothbrush, dental floss and instructions on daily dental hygiene.  School personnel are also given the information on dental care so that they may reinforce the practice of dental hygiene in the classroom.  This is in an effort to sustain the benefits of dental care begun on the initial patient visits by reinforcing good daily dental hygiene habits.

When the grant project began in June 2015, the goal was to serve 5,000 needy Guatemalan patients with the new mobile equipment.  The three dental teams are currently exhibiting a progress that is well on schedule to surpass, if not come close to doubling the original goal.  During the first six months more than 4,000 dental patients have already been served.   

The Club Rotario Guatemala Las Americas and the Rotary Club of Hendersonville Tennessee wanted to enhance their existing Guatemala medical mission trips by expanding the dental mission to include dental restorative work instead of only providing tooth extractions.  This patient improvement would necessitate the purchase of sophisticated mobile dental equipment.  The two Rotary Clubs applied for and received a $52,392.00 Rotary Global Grant. With this Global Grant, the clubs purchased eight portable Rota-Dent dental units, eight portable dental chairs, compressors and surgical hand tools.  These key dental items were distributed to three dental venues in Guatemala that served the poor throughout the country. Patients are provided with toothpaste, a toothbrush, dental floss and brochures regarding good daily dental hygiene.  School personnel are also given the information on dental care so that they may reinforce the practice of dental hygiene in the classroom.  

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