"What wonderful days we've spent at the Spear Open Wide Foundation in Peronia, Guatemala," exclaims Dr. Keiko Wada during her admirable, sophisticated work abroad. The dental clinic has five operatories packed with patients visiting throughout the day. Accompanied by her dental assistant Jeni and her dental hygienist Terrie, they treated approximately 35 patients, ranging in age from 5 to 60 years old, in a course of four days and provided necessary dental works we often take for granted in the U.S.
All of the local patients greatly appreciated the essential dental care provided. The days were filled with routine cleanings, X-rays, fillings, extractions and restorations – necessary for improved dental health and well-being. Dr. Keiko Wada and her dedicated team members, Jeni and Terrie, were also fortunate to be assisted by four devoted dental school students, who also started at the Clinic. In turn, they continued to help these students excel on reaching out and promoting better health for this rural community. They worked hand-in-hand with Stephanie, the head of the clinic and staff member, Eduardo and collaboration of volunteers from both the U.S and Guatemala.
There were so many highlights!
They were touched by Pablo, a five year old, who was truly brave today when he got his filling for his decaying tooth. And they treated twin girls, Stacey and Sophia, who needed more dental work completed than that for her sister; in the end, both had ear-to-ear smiles when they departed from the clinic. Dr. Wada and her team felt honored to help. They saw the difference they could make for every individual.There were endless smiles and hugs of gratitude. Moreover, every patient walked out with at least one outfit, brought and donated from their U.S. patients and office. Dr. Wada and the team were smitten with the little sister of a boy and a mother that were treated; the darling girl paraded out the door in our gift of a beautiful dress that dental assistant Jeni brought. It could have not been more perfect fit both in size and emotion.
The talents of Dr. Wada and her dental assistant glistened in four hours spent building three indirect and direct veneers for patient Brian. He departed with a new beautiful smile and confident step. Detailed-oriented hygienist Terrie had back-to-back cleanings for five people. It was a challenging job as many of her patients over the past days had never been to a dentist, thereby requiring her to provide deep cleaning and sensitivity to those new to the dental chair experience.
Another patient, Andrea, the daughter of one of the Clinic staff members, got a well-deserved makover in the past two weeks! First, a plastic surgeon volunteering from California removed keloid scars from a dog bite, obtained when she was a small child. Then, Dr. Wada and Jeni made three crowns for her front teeth! With creativity and finesse, Dr. Wada and Jeni transformed this lovely girl's face into one of beauty and warmth.
An emotional final day was filled with a packed day of teeth cleanings, including a last-minute, much-needed cleaning for an 11-year-old. Volunteer Pierce helped assist behind the dental chair while Volunteer Lindsay entertained children and adults with temporary tattoos to help relax them prior to seeing the dentists.
Dr. Wada began an involved restoration, and then she turned the reigns over to Rodrigo so he could learn her innovative technique. One of the many significant aspects about the Open Wide Foundation Clinic is its empowerment of dental students; students rotate every two months and cherish learning from volunteer dentists, like Dr. Wada and her colleagues. And staff member Rodrigo also embraced learning different cutting-edge techniques to enhance the patient's experience and outcome. In fact, Rodrigo amazed the co-workers of a patient, a municipal worker, with his incredible handiwork. The renewed smile on the worker was duplicated on the smiles of his team waiting outside for him!
Saddened to leave and receive the touching words of Gorge, Dr. Wada and her team felt overwhelmed with joy to have dedicated their time and energy to this warm, genuinely caring community. It has been inspiring to serve others beyond our borders and provide the dental care needed to promote healthier, and happier, futures.
~ Dr. Keiko Wada