This week, a team of five professionals from Aspen Dental — three dentists and two hygienists — are travelling Haiti on a one week health care mission. In the town of Jacmel, Haiti, the Aspen team has set up in a cinder block clinic and is providing vital oral care amidst a shortage of water and an unstable power supply.
Here is a post from Dr. Jennifer Check, who serves as the lead dentist at Aspen Dental in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, about her experience.
Outside of Jacmel, Haiti is a small suburb called Morne Oje. Our team is set up in a health clinic that Restore Haiti had previously opened. Lawn chairs, tables and an office chair serve as our examining areas.
As we began to unpack, the team created stations in rooms within the cinder block clinic. Haitians began lining up before the 9AM opening. We knew we would have a full clinic all day.
As the first patients walked in, the generator finally turned on. Purified water from five-gallon jugs were set up for procedures and to help sterilize instruments. Patient after patient, we began seeing a trend in multiple teeth and gum infections – the majority of which were cases of extreme decay and abscess. In the most extreme cases, when a patient’s teeth were examined we would notice such extreme decay that the tooth has already begun falling apart in their mouth.
All stations ran smoothly as we saw more and more patients during the day. A patient would come in and check in with a local Haitian nurse who worked for the Restore Haiti and Restoration Ministries clinic. From there, we would assess their chart based on the issues or toothaches they tell us they face, and decide if they need a cleaning, an X-Ray, or in cases where their teeth were extremely decayed, an immediate extraction. All extractions were closed up with sutures.
At one point, the power went out. Our team improvised and switched into manual mode, and were not able to use any of the electrical instruments for the rest of the day.
Through local interpreters, patients kept telling us how much pain they were in. They were beyond grateful we were there to help with their pain. What struck me most was that as we continued to see patients (we saw over 100 patients yesterday), not a single person complained with the wait or seemed ungrateful for the work we were doing.
Our hope is to see hundreds more patients during our time here. We know dental problems can be the cause of some of the worst pains. My hope is to be able to do anything possible to help Haitians in need of proper dental care.
Stay tuned for more updates from the Aspen team throughout the week.
© 2012, Amanda H.. All rights reserved.