‘Dentistry For Good’

'Dentistry For Good'

Tri-Cities dentist Bart Roach decided to set up a dental clinic in El Paredon after a brief visit to pass out toothbrushes. He saw how badly people needed his help. Story reported and narrated by Northwest Public Broadcasting’s Tri-Cities reporter, Courtney Flatt. Read the full article here.

Full Transcript

[Announcer] In the US, access to good dental care isn’t that hard to come by. Dentists are able to catch and treat problems quickly.

Does it hurt all the time?

[Announcer] Fillings and root canals at Three Rivers Dental in Kennewick are no big deal. But in developing countries, many people don’t have easy access to dentists.

It’s always hard when you find people that are in great need and don’t have the resources to take care of it.

[Announcer] That’s why Bart Roach takes his talents on the road. With his nonprofit organization Sonrisa Immaculata, Immaculate smile. For the second time this year, a team of five dentists and two hygienists from around the world travel to El Paredon, Guatemala. They set up a small pop up dental clinic in the remote fishing village. A local hostel, the driftwood surfer, got word out about the clinic, and people streamed in for exams. Patients filled exam chairs for five days. Air compressors powered the tools. Buzzing for hours on end. Claudina Lopez is 77 years old. Through a translator, she says she’s lived in El Paredon for almost her entire life. The town doesn’t have its own dentist. Lopez says getting oral health care is tricky.

She said it’s expensive, it’s 20 kilometers there, 20 back and it’s about a two hour drive to go, yeah. It’s not convenient at all.

[Announcer] But she realized it’s important, even with most of her teeth already pulled.

She says she has a little four year old granddaughter, and she brushes her teeth but she says all the bottom ones are rotten, yeah. Si, si, but she’s asking if she can bring her. Yeah.

[Announcer] Many people here are seeing a dentist for the first time, whether they’re three or 30. Most people’s teeth aren’t good. In this remote area, people don’t have access to clean drinking water. In town, sodas are cheaper than bottled water. The dentists say the amount of sugar people consume is a big reason why their teeth are in bad shape. That leads to a lot of cavities. And sometimes, a lot of pain.

[Dr. Roach] It breaks your heart. I mean I have pictures on my computer of kids who’s primary teeth are still in their mouth and they’ve had so much inflammation and bone loss around their primary teeth that the root, one of the buckle roots the cheek side root, has come out of the bone and out of the gums, and has created a huge lesion on their cheek because every time they chew that tooth root is jamming into their cheek. So these are things that we just can’t even fathom in the United States ’cause we would never have a problem get to that point.

[Announcer] Over the week, the team removed 285 teeth and filled about 500 cavities. Nate Green is a dentist based in Denver. He says another big part of the mission was to teach kids how to brush their teeth.

[Dr. Green] So fixing their dental problems is one thing that’s important, but also trying to help them understand the ways to care for their teeth on their own. In the long term it’s more important to educate them than it is to actually fix the cavities they already have.

[Announcer] Roach says one of his main goals is to make the project sustainable. He hopes eventually more dentists come down every year or so.

[Dr. Roach] The satisfaction doesn’t come now. Coming here is when we see kids that have clean mouth. They don’t walk in with just completely bombed out when mothers are actively taking care of their children’s baby teeth.

[Announcer] But town’s vice president of community, Santos Corrando Centeno says through a translator that people here couldn’t be more thankful.

[Translator] It’s very helpful for everybody in this community because most people don’t have the resources to go to a dentist regularly.

[Announcer] That’s why the dentists keep coming back.

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