Dental Mission August 2009

The orphanage required that we eat our lunch with the children.  It was a way to pay us back for the work we were doing.  We split up into groups of two so that we didn’t over power any one’s home and so that more homes had the opportunity to host us.  It proved to be a delightful time.  We interacted with the children and mothers.   We answered their questions.  We spoke English to those who were studying English.  In every case the children completed their assignments to cook, set the table and clean up without complaining.   It was rather amazing to us.

After we completed our work, we organized the equipment and supplies into bags and storage containers.  It took about four hours to do this, much more than I had expected.  It was time well spent.  Everything is well organized for retrieval on our next visit.  They are safely stored in the office of Alejandro Corti for a future trip in early 2010.



Brief summary of the trip:

Dr. Dean visited Quezaltenango, Guatemala in August 2008 and again in February 2009.  With the help of Dra. Silvya Rodas, he made contact with five orphanages and one special needs school.  The Aldea Infantil orphanage seemed to be the best organized.  It was a place where we felt we could work, teach prevention and have an impact.  Francisco Barreno Castillo who is the director of the Aldea Infantil was very accomodating.  The Aldea was stable and organized.  There was a place to put a small temporary dental clinic.  There were plenty of children with dental needs.  Francisco was also willing to share our efforts with other needy groups, utilizing his space.  That included an offer to store or equipment for us.

There is another orphanage that is underfunded and in need.  There is a home for teenage girls and a school for special needs children that we can help also.  Again Francisco has offered the use of his facilities to take care of the others in the future.

The first group brought down about four suitcases of humanitarian supplies which were donated by the Grand Junction Colorado West Stake primary.  Some of these supplies were given to children as rewards for good behavior during dental visits but the remainder was given to directors of the Aldea and Escuela Oficial Urbana Mixta de Educacion Especial “Xelaju”–the special needs school to distribute as needed.  We also gave some items to Hogar Del Nino Minusvalido, Hermano Perdro orphanage.  Hermano Pedro is an orphanage run by the Catholic Church which has children and adults with special needs.

The first group visited the dental clinic in Guatemala City that has been built in a state run orphanage.  The dental clinic is funded by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and should be staffed by the BYU Academy of LDS dentists.  The five chair clinic is far from finished.  When finished it should be a help in meeting the needs of orphans in Guatemala City.  A missionary couple is directing the construction.  A dentist has been called on a mission to work in the clinic.  It is my understanding that it will serve future missionaries and current missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Both groups visited the old hospital in Santiago de Atitlan that was destroyed by a mud slide.  We also visited the new hospital that is being built in a safer place in Santiago de Atitlan.  The new hospital is well underway and should be functional in about a year.  The community hopes to be seeing patients by the first of 2010 but Dr. Dean doesn’t think it will be functional until about a year from now.  There will be a two chair dental clinic in that hospital.  The space has already been designated.  Dr. Dean met with the architect and will continue to serve as an advisor.  The hospital will serve about 43,000 Tztujil Mayans and some Cachikel Mayans.  The directors calculate that they will serve about 100,000 Mayans.  You can read more about it by going to and There is a video that is rather interesting.

In the hospital there will be two general anesthesia surgical suites.  I already have commitments from two anesthesiologists in Grand Junction to go with me to Guatemala when the hospital is done.  I hope they will follow through on their commitments.  I have also talked to a Guatemalan anesthesiologist in Quezaltenango who is will to perform general anesthesia on any child who is in need.  I personally don’t have any experience with in-office anesthesiology so am a little concerned about it.  I have lots of experience with hospital dentistry and feel comfortable in that venue.

Dr. Dean also visited the Hospital in Solola.  Solola is one of the poorest regions in Guatemala.  There is a real need for dental care.  Currently, they are the only hospital with general anesthesia operating rooms.  The hospitalito in Santiago de Atitlan will be a real help in relieving the burden when completed.  They also have a dentist that works two half days a week.  I haven’t been able to see the inside of the office but from the outside, it is well below standards.  I have meet with the hospital director and feel that a working relationship could be reached.

It was wonderful to have trained dental assistants.  I wish that there were some that were Spanish speaking but we were able to use the LDS missionaries to help us translate.  You can’t translate caring and love.  My assistants can communicate that in any language.  A smile, a tender touch, a soothing tone of voice is all any child needs to understand.  My wonderful assistants have all of that and more.  We worked as a team.  It was great.

I would like to add a general dentist to my team.  I really would rather treat the children and leave the adult dentistry to a general dentist.  We already have five volunteers general dentists and hope with continued public relations to have more.  One is scheduled to go with me in the early part of 2010.  It will require that I buy another portable chair and dental unit.

I plan to pursue help from the dental students in Quezaltenango.  Not only can they help in the clinic but they can be a constant source of dental education in the community year round.  The students are willing and anxious to do something.  We just need to give them direction.  Dr. Dean has been approached about teaching some classes to the dental students next year on pediatric dentistry.  That will be a language challenge but one that he is considering.  One of the Spanish teachers at Mesa State College in Grand Junction has offered to help me to translate my power point presentation into Spanish.

I am pondering some way to train Guatemalan dental assistants.  There must be some way to do it.  There also should be some way to boost the production of the Guatemalan dentists.  I have a Spanish speaking hygienist who I hope will come with us next time and go from house to house at the SOS orphanage instructing children but more importantly the mothers.  I would like her to train some of the dental students at the same time.

I can’t think of many negative aspects.  The trip was great.  It went better than I expected.  I look forward to making some improvements but I can’t complain or be critical of what we did this time.

Antonio Salguero made the trip wonderful.  My staff doesn’t want to go without him, ever.