I have been a dentist for 17 years. I have always wanted to go on a mission trip. To give to those who need it most. I finally got connected with Medical Ministries International, a Christian based group, and went to Peru November 1st – 12th. Our team consisted of 35 medical professionals and general helpers from the US and Canada. We each had to bring a suitcase full of supplies. My Schein representative directed me towards the Henry Schien Cares website and I was blown away by their generosity.
We spent 3 days in Urcos, Peru, which is a poor, remote village. The oral hygiene was very poor there and we spent most of our time extracting teeth. The children broke my heart. Almost every one of them had decay in multiple teeth. Although I love them dearly, I don’t see children in my practice and my experience working on children is minimal. So when I had a three year old in my chair in pain and every single tooth was decayed I had to fight back the tears knowing this might be his only chance to get some help. This happened time and time again.
Our last 2 days were spent in Cuzco, Peru. We set up in an old church and because the poverty wasn’t as bad there we were asked to do more fillings. Fortunately, we had all of the things we needed for restorative and even were lucky enough to have suction and handpieces. We worked hard and had general helpers acting as dental assistants for us. By the end of the day our backs were aching, our hearts were hurting but we also felt like we had made a difference.
I keep thinking how we can make a bigger difference there. How can we as dental professionals educate Peruvians about preventative dental hygiene? To educate parents on how to take care of their children’s teeth before decay begins?
I am now back in San Diego and as I reflect back on my time in Peru I am so grateful that I was able to go. Thank you, Henry Schein for all of the supplies donated. It was a tremendous help and allowed me to see so many patients. I will definitely go on another mission trip again.
Gina K Blakeman, DDS