In March, our very own Dr. Kelley went on a mission trip with Mission Save a Smile. She tells us about her experience and the dental problems that the people face in Panama:
“I wanted to share with you a little about the mission trip I was on last month and why I love going so much every year. Each Spring, I travel to Panama on a dental mission trip with the non-profit organization, Mission Save a Smile. We visit people living in indigenous communities on the remote San Blas islands or in the jungle. These people have no access whatsoever to modern dental care. These communities do, however, have access to modern processed foods and sweets by way of trade with Panama city (e.g. candy and soda). As a result, rampant dental decay and painful infections are far too common, and there is no one to treat the problem.
With a team of volunteers composed of dentists, dental students, dental assistants, and Spanish translators, we are able to provide both dental treatment and, just as importantly, dental education to these people. We give presentations focused on the importance of cleaning the teeth and we demonstrate the proper ways of brushing. Each child is given a toothbrush and tube of toothpaste. We let them practice brushing their teeth—it is really wonderful to see how much fun they always have with their new brushes! Afterwards, every child gets a fluoride application. The children with the more severe dental problems are then seen by a dentist for treatment. This year, during our visit to the Kuna tribe on Achutupu Island, we were able to provide fluoride to over 500 children and dental treatment for almost 200. We were encouraged to see that in the older child population, decay rates seem to be decreasing over the years—hopefully, this can be partly attributed to our yearly visits and efforts to increase dental health education!
Mission Save a Smile was started almost ten years ago by my boyfriend and his father (both dentists). On this most recent trip, we had over twenty volunteers including 7 dentists and 7 dental students. For me, I feel so much joy using my training and skills to help these underserved populations. It is heart-warming to see how happy and thankful the children are to have us visit. Their happy, healthy smiles are what encourage me to make the trip every year. To learn more about Mission Save a Smile or to donate, please visit: missionsaveasmile.org.
Feel free to ask me more about my mission trip on your next visit to Graber & Gyllenhaal Orthodontics! See you soon!”
Dr. Kelley works out of both offices in Glenview and Vernon Hills. Get your Graber smile started, visit us today!