Sunday, November 23, 2014

Top 20 Countdown #9: Treated 10,000 Dental Patients

Dentists with head lamps used see patients in rocking chairs propped up with paving stones when they came to volunteer with us in Nicaragua (talk about appropriate technology!). Luckily, conditions have improved since then, but it's been a long, slow road. There was and still is always a need for dentists.  

Nicaragua has so few dentists for its population.  Only 4.8 dentists per 100,000!  In the United States where there is a dentist shortage there are 100 dentists per 100,000 people. 
Dr. Dirk Anderson seeing patients in rocking chairs!

In 2004 dentist Dirk Anderson, who had been volunteering over the years in Nicaragua, donated the equipment to set up a dental room for volunteer dentists.  He had started coming to Nicaragua because thanks to his pastor at St. John’s Methodist Church (Rock Hill, SC) and good friend, Risher Brabham.  Risher brought delegations of first students and then church members to Nicaragua starting in 1997!  Risher wanted people to learn about poverty and the struggles and hopes of Nicaraguans.  Both men became our good friends.  

Risher, Kathie & Brooke Brabham at Masaya volcano
In 2007 we hired our first dentist, Dra. Ana, who worked half-time.  On the 15th of August that year, we dedicated the dental clinic to the memory of Risher who had died the year before of cancer after making one last trip to this country of his heart.  His wife, Kathie, and granddaughter, Brooke were here, as well as other family and friends, including Dirk.  

Dra. Ana plugged along pulling teeth mostly, but also doing some repair work, until she got a Fulbright to study elsewhere in 2010, and we were fortunate to find Dra. Inya, who is still with us.  With Inya, we slowly managed to get another dental room up and running for volunteers. 

In 2012 we hosted dentists from ORPHANetwork who saw children from their feeding centers…some of the poorest of the poor.  We began exploring how we could work together to give these children dental care.  Later that year, we hired our first full-time dental employee, Ligia, to be our hygienist…not a common service in Nicaragua.

In 2013 with ORPHANetwork we were able to hire Dra. Inya on as a full-time dentist and hire her a dental assistant, Fabiola.  Fabiola was one of the first graduates of the only dental assistant program in Nicaragua and who had been part of the ORPHANetwork services.

Currently we are seeing children from 10 feeding centers as well as adults and children from the neighborhood.  Remember how earlier almost all we did were extractions?  Now only 12% of our dental work is extractions! 

Now we save teeth by repairing them before the teeth are rotten.  We focus on preventive care…cleanings, education, and sealants.  Our hygienist goes into schools and the feeding centers and teaches about dental hygiene.

Believe it or not, good oral hygiene is critical for a healthy heart and to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.  Flossing regularly adds years to your life.  This is one program where we are actually staying ahead in the fight for good health.Future Projects:
To have a third dental room…awaiting funding and equipment


Counting down to #GivingTuesday on December 2nd, we’re highlighting the CDCA’s accomplishments over our 20 years in Nicaragua. Follow our countdown in this blog, on Facebook and Twitter. Help us keep doing more by giving $20. Our goal is to raise $20,000.