About three times a year, UCLA dental students and faculty journey to Honduras for a dental mission. Last December, the team ended an eventful and memorable two weeks serving the underserved population. The group comprised of twelve UCLA dental students, one UCLA undergraduate student, and two dentists. The group gained invaluable experience as they delivered care to over 90 patients.
I interviewed UCLA dental student, Lindsay Graves, ’14, about her experiences on the mission. Thank you!
How did the mission get started and how often do you visit Honduras?
The Diocese of Fall River created the Honduran Mission in 2000, but the dental component was not added until 2011. Since then, UCLA ASDA has been providing oral health instruction, cleanings, amalgam and composite restorations, extractions, and limited endodontic procedures to the population of Guiamaca and the surrounding area.
What type of patients did you see and what was most memorable?
We saw many children. Unfortunately, many of them had gross decay for such a young age. We saved what we could restoratively, extracted when we had to, and tried to focus on education for prevention. Many people there, much less their children, knew how to properly brush their teeth, or even knew what floss (“hilo dental”) was. They also have a habit of sucking on citrus and mangos, so one of my classmates started a “no chupen los mangos!” campaign.
One case that I still think of was that of a 16 year old girl who basically need a full-mouth extraction and dentures. She came in just because she wanted her front teeth fixed because they were “ugly” – sad. We had to tell her that we couldn’t help her, that she needed to go to a “real” dentist’s office for treatment. It was hard to turn her down, but patching up her front teeth so they would look better would only delay her seeking treatment, and would take time from patients we could actually help.
What did you gain from the mission and what was the most exciting part?
Oh wow… a lot! I’d never been to a third-world country before, so just seeing how they lived was sobering. I appreciated the glimpse into their culture – in some ways it was what we judge to be “rustic,” yet most women had manicures, and many teens stopped by the local internet café to check their Facebook daily. My father, an oral surgeon, was one of the two dentists on the trip. It was a great bonding experience with him. Most exciting part? When he let me do an alveoloplasty all by myself!
Read more about their experiences and adventures here!
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~Erin Aying, Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health ’14