Dentistry around the world

Back in April, Kim wrote a wonderful post about budget-friendly travel options for the summer ahead. It’s hard to believe it’s already mid-August and the summer weekends are fading quickly. If you’ve had any time off this summer, I hope you’ve spent it exactly as you wished – whether at home with family or in a completely new and exciting setting.

ASDA members have no doubt had great summer adventures, and it’s wonderful to know that many are exploring career options and global oral health while they’re at it. Kudos to the UCLA-Honduras collaboration for its inspiring scope and great documentation! Don’t be shy to share your own travel stories with ASDA, especially those related to school and/or oral health.

I’m writing now from a small cafe in San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala, where I’ve spent the past three weeks shadowing medical students in rural health posts. Dentistry is not an explicit focus within these clinics, but it’s clear that poor oral health is affecting quality of life in this country in ways I had not previously imagined. I’ll admit to having done very little research ahead of time on the oral health status of Guatemalans, nor the system of dental care delivery. But the information out there is grim.

Interesting differences exist between the expectations of doctors and dentists here. For example, medical students are required to spend 1 year in public service before they can graduate and practice independently. However, dental students have no such requirement. I’m curious whether this means dentists and doctors are thought to have differing levels of commitment to health.

While I don’t see myself practicing in a foreign country in the future, I hope to work in a setting that reaches Americans (whether newly immigrated or longstanding citizens) who are suffering from oral diseases as much as these rural Guatemalans. It’s clear that citizens from many developing countries are going to be entering the United States at high rates for years to come, and they’ll need great dentists like everyone else.

If you have any great resources on global oral health systems, we’d appreciate your comments!

~Colleen Greene, Harvard ’12, Contributing Editor

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