Fixing one little mouth at a time

Lack of dental care is so bad for Mayan natives in Guatemala that toothaches and infections develop into problems never seen in Canada.

Dr. Russell Grover says that when he and his team go to Guatemala, they face “a mountain of decay and abscesses.” Sometimes when they see all the problems, they think “we’ll never be able to fix them all. But we’re fixing it for this little one today,” the dentist said in the team’s video report to HPIC, referring to a little girl.

Dr. Grover, a dentist from Hamilton, Ontario, went with a Canadian volunteer team in the spring to the Merendon Mountains in southern Guatemala with the organization Canadian Central American Relief Effort (CCAMRE). They also operate programs that provide scholarships, support destitute families, provide community buildings, and educate local people.

In a video he sent to HPIC, the dentist said the saddest thing he sees is “little people who have to go to sleep every night as their teeth deteriorate.”

HPIC equipped Dr. Grover and his team with two Humanitarian Medical Kits for dental care and three kits for primary care, enabling them to treat 400 patients, including 170 kids.

Most medical and dental conditions go untreated in the community. The annual CCAMRE visit is all the care available. The main concerns this year were toothaches. In his report, Dr. Grover wrote: “On many people we saw we only extracted root tips because their teeth had already rotted back to the gum line. Other problems were respiratory infections, pneumonia, asthma, diarrhea, intestinal parasites, peptic upsets, dermatitis, hypertension and diabetes.”

Patterson Dental donates enough dental supplies to HPIC to be able to provide 20 dental kits every year.

Dr. Grover’s team uses kits from HPIC every year and are so happy to see that their work to raise awareness about good hygiene practice is starting to make an impact. Dr. Grover wrote in his report that “we were doing a home visit when I noticed an outdoor sink cover with metal. In the frame of the metal were toothbrushes and some toothpaste. When we asked the father, he stated that his entire family brushed their teeth every day with or without toothpaste.”

There is so much gratitude for the volunteer care and donated medicines from Canada. “The patients would thank the donor companies so much. As poor as they are, they try to give back to you to thank you. We have actually had women run after our pick-up trucks when we leave trying to give us live chickens. They don’t eat them but use them for eggs. So they are actually trying to give us the food they feed their families with. How humbling is that?”

Watch the video report to HPIC: