Cows, Chickens, and Missing Teeth
There is a word that when spoken can cause even the strongest human to shake with anxiety. Whenever it’s mentioned, the symptoms can be similar in many of us: sweaty palms, clammy skin, hair follicles standing on end, even lack of concentration. Images can be conjured up of traumatic childhood experiences, threats from our parents, and even the smell of the dreaded anaesthetic. The word? Dentist.I was one of those not-so-blessed kids that became intimately acquainted with the ceiling tiles in my dentist’s office. I knew how many there were, which ones to focus on, and which ones annoyed me. I had the timing of the freezing down to a tee, and I even had memories of a particular tooth flying out of my mouth and bouncing off of my unfortunate dentist’s temple before it finally landed at the opposite end of the room. However, in retrospect, I owe a huge thank you to that dentist because he had the foresight to help me have the set of nice, full chompers that I now own. My dentist was awesome!Dentists have been open for business since 5000 B.C. The need for good teeth is nothing new. However, it is often an unattainable dream for those who most need it – the world’s poor. Like any kind of medical care, dentistry costs money; but the irony of dental care is that many of the issues could be prevented if we all had access to something as simple as a toothbrush and the basics of dental hygiene.Our patients that day didn’t have access to a reception room TV or even a coffee table with six month old magazines. Instead, they had an open-air waiting room next to the make-shift receptionist table under a palm tree on the side of a dirt road. As motorbikes wound through the crowd, cows munched on grass in their waiting room, and chickens dodged human feet. Each patient possessively held a paper with a number: their lucky ticket to freedom from pain and anxiety. Dental pain sucks, and when you can’t afford to feed your family, the last thing on your mind is trying to get a good dental plan in place. Many of the people there that day, when an opportunity like this comes along, would be willing to do whatever it takes to get the care that they desperately need.As each new patient laid in the dental chair (the bright blue plastic lounge chairs from our hotel) the atmosphere was not one of tension and anxiety, even though many of them were having teeth pulled. Rather, it was one of light heartedness and laughter. As they waved at their family and friends on the sidelines, they smiled confidently at our team members. Behind the rows of lounge chairs, small groups of kids excitedly took turns holding a large set of fake teeth, enamored with a toothbrush and what it can do to make teeth clean. It was hard to keep a straight face as I listened to them chatter and encourage each other about how to brush properly. After they had their dental work done, many of our new friends would jump up from the chair, shake their dentist’s hand, even hug and kiss them on the cheek. As they walked away, holding their cheeks, they would give the thumbs up to the other people in the “waiting room” under the palm tree, letting them know it was going to be fine.Later that evening, as we sat around and discussed the day’s events, our Hero Holiday dentists shared with our team that it was one of the most rewarding days of their entire careers. Really, how could it not be? How many times does a dentist get a hug and kiss for pulling someone’s tooth and causing them obvious pain?This August, Hero Holiday is returning to Dominican Republic to complete another dental and medical humanitarian trip and partnering with the Nursing Program from the University of Western Ontario. We will be doing an extensive number of clinics in communities that have only dreamed of being able to see a dentist or doctor. We will be doing health seminars, clinics, and providing vital care to those who need it most. This is possible because of people like you. Thank you for your support, your partnership, and even your willingness to learn a little bit more about what we do as an organization.**Please consider posting our 52 stories to your Facebook and/or Twitter accounts, as well as encourage others to sign up to receive it to their inbox each week. Together, we can bring influence and change!