Quebec dental team cares for villagers in Honduras

Dr. Bernard Blain had his patient lie down on a bench in a makeshift clinic near Ojojona, Honduras.

A lawn chair is not typically found in a dentist’s office. This was what Dr. Bernard Blain of Montreal had to use for doing tooth extractions when he was in Honduras with a Dentistes sans frontières (DSF) team.

“In Honduras they lack so much,” Dr. Blain said. “We worked in two settings: a health clinic in the village that had a dentist’s chair and a room in the mountains – that’s where the lawn chair came in handy.”

This trip to Honduras during the last two weeks of January in 2006 was the second dental mission trip for Dr. Blain. Previously he went to Armenia in 2004 with a DSF team. This time he carried a Dental Travel Pack from HPIC. When he went to Armenia, Dr. Blain had to approach other dentists to donate needed supplies and medicines. “With the Dental Travel Pack, I can call one place and get what I need,” he said.

The DSF team included two dentists, one dentistry student and one hygienist. The Dental Travel Pack from HPIC helped Dr. Blain and the team examine about 400 children and adults and perform 291 extractions, seven dental surgeries, 92 fillings, and 10 cleanings.

“I am retired and still capable of helping. We know the needs are great and it’s good to make yourself useful,” he said of his motivation to help. “We are not tourists. We spend our days with the local people.”

A retired Canadian who lives part time in Honduras prepared the way for the DSF team. He spread the word that the dental team was coming. They were based in Ojojona, which is about a four-hour drive from Tegucigalpa, the capital.

“They would walk for three hours to get to us,” Dr. Blain said. “Many had never seen a dentist before and we had to make decisions about what to do first. You look inside and their whole mouth needs work but there is a line-up of others waiting for their turn.”

Dr. Blain would finish the last patient of the day no later than 3 p.m. “They had walked three hours and they needed to get home before dark.”

The memories of this trip and of the individual people he helped, stay with him. “In Ojojona, the village we served in, there is a dentist but he doesn’t have much. He doesn’t work very much. People earn between $400 and $500 in a year so their living standard is quite low.”

Dr. Blain would like to see a permanent dental clinic set up there with a dentist on site year-round. “We would work with local dentists and set up a proper clinic.”

“There is so much to do and it feels like a very short time when we’re there,” he said. Dr. Blain plans to return to Ojojona. “The Dental Travel Pack is really appreciated. It is a great tool and we will continue to use it.”