Thank you to the Missouri Academy of Pediatric Dentistry for the financial gift to allow me to experience my first dental mission trip. Traveling to and working in Falmouth, Trelawny in Jamaica opened my eyes to the challenges yet innumerable joys of providing oral health care to disadvantaged people in another country. Supervised by Dr. Stan Hite and working as a team with fellow UMKC student doctor Hayley Shenberger, I had the opportunity to grow in my skills as a practitioner. Working tirelessly, we treated patients in a small clinic from the early hours of the day to well into the night.
Interested in pursuing a career in pediatric dentistry myself, I actively recruited pediatric patients to come to the clinic. I spent part of my lunch break one day sitting on the floor of the front porch of the clinic with children on my lap. As we sang and made animal noises, I would take quick looks into the children ‘s mouths to gauge their dental needs. Talking with their parents later to invite them to bring in their whole families for an appointment, we were able to see more children than originally planned. Parents felt connected and comfortable. Children had their first dental appointments. We were able to get kids out of pain, provide high-quality care, and do much-needed oral hygiene instructions.
The humble surroundings of the local community showed me the obstacles that presented themselves to families in terms of giving children consistent oral health care. Access to affordable dental treatments and availability of toothbrushes/toothpaste would always present a challenge to most people living near the clinic. Yet it made me smile to watch parents interacting with their kiddos. Their concern and willingness to learn brushing techniques to help their children reminded me that parents in general just wanted the tools to help. By encouraging visiting dentists to give their time to provide care and education, a large impact is made to so many people.
– Jessica S.