One of the hardest things to say to patients in remote mission settings is “I’m sorry, that incredibly painful abscessed tooth needs to come out, but we don’t have a dentist.” Imagine needing a root canal, but knowing there is no option but to just…wait…and hope that it somehow gets better on its own. People often don’t think of dental issues as major medical priorities…until they have a toothache, which can easily bring the toughest patient to their knees.
Thanks to the incredible work by our Dental Director Dr. Kevin Lan, DDS, our staff dentist Dr. Philippe Martin, and the support raised by Ted Hannig and Don Scott, Floating Doctors now boasts a well-equipped dental service that can handle most dental issues, although we never have enough dentists to meet the need and recruiting dental volunteers is a high priority for us.
Although we are very happy be able to treat the dental issues that are becoming more common as life expectancy (and the elderly population) increases and children’s access to cheap sugary snacks and sodas increases, we would prefer to not have to extract rotten teeth all day long. Primary prevention is an important part of our approach to dental issues and at almost every medical clinic all patients seen are offered a new toothbrush (and toothpaste when we have it).
Additionally, our staff dentists and visiting dentists, techs, dental students or other volunteers also regularly teach dental hygiene and brushing technique to the kids in the communities—it’s great to give out new toothbrushes but not much help if they are not being used properly, and we do not offer dental services without an educational component as well.
In 2017 our teams treated over 1,500 dental patients but there are thousands more waiting. If you are a dentist, dental hygienist or tech or dental student and would like to come help our patients get care, please visit our Dental Volunteer Page to see how to join our team and help us keep our patients smiling!