Team Martin travels to Honduras to provide dental care to children

As reported in the Feb. 21 issue of FOCUS, several hygienists were part of a team of 14 dental professionals who traveled last month to Honduras with Central American Relief Effort (CARE) to provide dental care to children in remote communities. Carol Martin, BSDH, PHDHP, leader of the group, recounts the life-changing, week-long experience for the members of Team Martin.

Mar 7th, 2014
Honduras 2014 Team Fo

Have you ever been without your toothbrush and toothpaste? If you have, how many days went by without brushing? Imaging living in Honduras and never owning a toothbrush. That is what a week is like working with the children in the Choluteca Department of Honduras.

Back row L-R: Laura Huff, Katie Groff, Pat Donnlley, Marel (translator), Leeann Easley, Diane Crème, Amanda Gutshall, Mae High, Marc Lamontagne, Dr. Neha Patel, and Fernando (Honduran dentist) Front row L-R: Carol Martin, Sharon Lomontange, Fran Eppley, Heather Steich, and Shelly Brown.

The middle of February, a team of 14, known as "Team Martin," traveled to Honduras with Central American Relief Efforts (C.A.R.E) to provide much needed dental care to children in remote communities. Before we arrived in Honduras, C.A.R.E. administrators, in collaboration with the Mayors of each community, selected a different school for us to work with the students. The requirement for each school was need for dental care, and a site big enough to accommodate 500 children.

Little girl wait for fluoride varnish application.

Once a school site was secured, the mayor from the hosting community contacted three or four surrounding schools to inform them that a dental clinic was to be held on a specific day. It was not unusual for children to walk up to three hours to get to the designated site! One school contacted us to make us aware they would not attend due to malnutrition of the children, and the extreme heat. Another little boy, with a toothache, walked 2 1/2 hours with his grandfather to receive dental care.

Carol Martin kiss-fest!

During the week, we traveled to four schools providing dental education, preventive prophylaxis, and extractions if needed. When time allowed, a face painting station was added which gave the children something fun to do. This year, we were fortunate to have two dentists with us, one American and one Honduran.

Beautiful girl with face paint

Oral health was different at each school. Some areas had tenacious black stain, others areas had high decay rates, while others had little to no stain or little decay. One huge reason for the high decay rate is the consumption of soda and high sugar products, as sugar is cheap and easily accessible. During our education sessions, we tried to reiterate the importance of brushing to remove the sugar from their teeth. As Americans, we must remember you do not change the habits of a population overnight. This will take time and repeated visits.

A little girl clutching her goodie bag

Getting to these communities can be a challenge. The roads we traveled were rocky and bumpy. One school was 35 miles away, which took us two hours to get there, while another was 15 miles away, and it took 45 minutes travel time. When we arrive at each school, the children, the Mayor, and the school principle greeted us. This year, we had the honor of watching children perform a Honduran dance for us. You can see a portion of the dance by going to www.youtube.com and type in: Honduran School Dance 2014.

During our week, we saw 1,449 children and approximately 59 adults. Of those children, we extracted 439 teeth. A young girl about 12 years old presented with a severe abscess on a lower left molar. When examined by the dentist, she said the infection was so bad the girl could have died. Another child, about 8 years old, had a severe infection on the lower right that actually destroyed part of her mandible.

This type of trip is truly life changing. In America, we tend to take things for granted. We all came away thankful for our lives and the privilege of having supplies available when needed. Feel free to visit my blog at: www.CarolMartin2014.wordpress.com for more pictures from my week.

Each year, we collect dental supplies as well as school supplies to give to the children. If you would be interested in making a monetary donation, donating supplies, or participating in a future trip, feel free to contact me at tuthy811@yahoo.com and put the word Honduras in the subject area.

Carol Martin, BSDH, PHDHP, graduated from North Dakota state College of Science in 1988 with her AAS and Minnesota State University, Mankato in 2013 with her BS. She works full-time in private practice, volunteers at Water Street Health Services, and organizes dental teams to Honduras each year.

To read previous RDH eVillage FOCUS articles by Carol Martin, click here.

To read more about volunteers and dental hygiene, click here.

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