Dental smiles in the making. A five-person team from Wayside Dental Centre was part of a 23-person dental and medical brigade providing dental and eye care to poor children and adults in Guatemala from Feb. 9-19. Leading the Wayside team was Dr. Nekky Jamal pictured at the back. SUBMITTED PHOTO
In parts of Guatemala where Coke is cheaper than water, poor dental health is prevalent.
That’s the case in Comitancillo in the western highlands of the Central American country, where a five-person team from Wayside Dental Centre went to provide dental care to some of the poorest Indigenous people.
“Comitancillo was our base where we stayed and we would take a bus for an hour every day to a different community,” said Dr. Nekky Jamal, who lead the team.
“We provided dental and eye care so we had two optometrists come with us and seven dentists.”
The Wayside team was part of a larger 23-person dental and medical brigade tour that treated hundreds of patients in small villages from Feb. 9-19, sponsored by Change for Children in Edmonton.
Jamal said the trip was also a great opportunity for team building in the office and abroad.
“We left as co-workers and came back as family,” he said.
“They are more than just co-workers they are my really good friends—they all mean the world to me, so I am proud of them all and the work that they did down there.”
Over four clinic days, the full brigade saw 915 patients and completed 950 extractions, 110 fillings and 40 cleanings.
“One day we ended up seeing over 220 people and they lined up for a long time just to see us,” said Jamal who called that a record in his 12 year dental brigade history.
He said the nutrition of the people in that region isn’t good, so that affects their whole body, especially their teeth.
“Unfortunately, Coke is so easily accessible up there that everyone drinks Coke instead of water because it’s so cheap—that’s what leads to everyone’s destruction of their teeth,” he explained.
They saw one four-old with nine abscessed teeth.
“In Canada, if we saw that it would be a disaster, but there we see that all that time,” said Jamal.
“These kids are in pain and they know they need help and they don’t complain about it—they will let you do what you need to do to help them.”
The brigades would set up in schools with three rooms for dental work, notably extractions, fillings and cleanings and one room for eye care.
“We bring all our equipment from home so all our compressors and dental drills and everything,” said Jamal, who noted it was not without its challenges.
“It’s hard on your back because people are sitting on tables; you do what you can with what you got.”
Jamal said the response from the children and adults they helped was one of overwhelming gratitude.
“It’s 100 per cent gratitude; they know that they’re in pain,” said Jamal.
Kids come in and ask if you’ll help them with their teeth pain.”
The Wayside group included dental assistants, Jilayne Hornady and Kerri-Ann Adams, along with dental hygienist Dipika Jain and receptionist Sarah Mettlewsky.
“I am so proud to have my team members from Wayside to join us down there, and that was the first time we had done that,” said Jamal.
“For them to go down there and see what we set up and to work their butts off down there like they do here just made me so proud.”
Adams called the experience amazing.
“I learned there is so much need; there are so many people that really need our help and you can’t help everybody,” she said.
Adams said what helped to make it rewarding were the parents of kids they treated who seemed very pleased and appreciative of the care they got.
“It was amazing and so sad at the same time,” she said, with so many people needing help.
Translators were a part of the tour as the language in the area is a mix of Spanish and Mam.
The brigade was also a rewarding first time for Jain as a hygienist.
“It was very humbling, just an eyeopening experience—I would love to go back again,” she said.
She also said it was a great team building experience at the Wayside clinic.
“We are a really large office, so it was really nice to get to know some members of the team in a more intimate fashion, and know that we were all there to do good,” said Jain.
“Everyone was on the same page; it was really nice.”
The Wayside group was assisted by Lloydminster lawyer Celine Polischuk and Lloydminster Rescue Squad member Joel Baynton who are both clients at Wayside and volunteered to go.
Also helping out were Grade 12 Holy Rosary High School’s Ethan Patterson and Lloydminster Hospital LPN, Delaney Bugiera.