Dental News - Aspen Dental brings smiles and relief to impoverished areas of Nicaragua

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Aspen Dental brings smiles and relief to impoverished areas of Nicaragua

During a trip to Nicaragua that was financially supported by Aspen Dental Management Inc., care was delivered to about 500 patients in four days. (Photo: Aspen Dental)

Thu. 23 July 2015


NEW YORK, N.Y., USA: Toothaches are painful, but imagine if there was no dentist around to treat them. That is part of everyday life for many people in Nicaragua — where a group of nine Aspen Dental volunteer doctors and support staff recently took part in a mission to alleviate the most urgent dental needs of Nicaraguans in Tipitapa and Nejapa.

There, many walked miles along dirt roads and waited patiently for hours in long lines just for a chance to receive dental care — some of them in extreme pain.

“The patients sat in my chair with no understanding of what was about to happen because some of them had literally never received dental care before, or had received very limited care. But what was so striking is that they placed such value in it, enough so that they spent their entire day waiting to be treated,” said Lindsay Cook, a registered dental hygienist (RDH) from an Aspen Dental practice in Janesville, Wis. “A smile is universal. I love knowing that I was making a difference.”

Almost half of the population in Nicaragua lacks access to health services, and nearly 80 percent of the country’s population has no health insurance. Thus, missions like Aspen Dental’s are very welcomed and needed.

“Every trip we make just reinforces the overwhelming need for the care we provide,” said Dr. Schatzie Vincent, Aspen Dental Management Inc.’s director of clinical support and community giving. “The look on the faces of the people we treated is a reward you can’t describe.”

For most, it was their first professional dental cleaning, according to Belangie Perez-Torres, an Aspen Dental RDH from Rome, NY.

“Some of the people told me they traveled from far away and were very grateful to receive free dental services despite the long wait,” Perez-Torres said.

The group worked in intense heat and fly-infested conditions, yet the reward of a smile and a hug from a patient who was no longer in pain put everything in perspective.

“The conditions are striking, especially compared to what we’re all so lucky to experience in our day-to-day jobs,” said Dr. Dustin Dixon, an Aspen Dental practice owner from Tampa, Fla. “It changes you and the benefit from it is exponential.”

“There literally was blood, sweat and tears, but I have never felt more proud in all my life,” Cook said.

In all, the team delivered care to about 500 patients in four days — treatment ranging from extractions to fillings and cleanings. Children were given fluoride treatments as well.

“They have a tremendous need for dental care, and unlike us, who can find a dentist on our computersand know that we would be seen within a day or two, its heartbreaking to know thatpeople there may never know when they will receive dental treatment again,” said Dawn Pletz, a Dental Assistant who resides in Hazelton, Pa.

“Being able to utilize a skill I possess, to give back to those in need is so incredibly rewarding,” Cook said. “I believe it is our responsibility to give back. I am so grateful to work for a company that allows me to do that.”

The trip was financially supported by Aspen Dental Management Inc.

(Source: Aspen Dental)


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