Sunday, May 26, 2013

Third World Dentistry

I have had the opportunity to use my dental background for some different projects here.  President was excited in my first interview when I told him I am a dentist, retired but still with an active Idaho license.  He had been trying to get several young people out on missions and the dental part of the application had been holding some of them up.  We devised a plan and I have actually been able to help about 6 get their papers sent in and move forward on the application track.  The emphasis at home was to do a thorough dental exam and not only get the young people ready to go on missions, but to get all the disease removed and hope to have it done for the rest of their lives.  That is not the emphasis here.  We are more concerned about the next two years.  It is a lot like the military experience I had in Germany, getting the young troops ready to deploy to the Middle East.  They were deployable if they could eat the rations and if they did not have any potential problems that would cause trouble in the next two years. I have learned that it is vastly different.

Here on Tortola I have made friends with a dental coleague who comes over from St Thomas a couple of days per week.  He has a car and an apartment here and when he is here he works 12-14 hours non-stop.  He has a tiny office with bare essentials, two operatories, no assistant, and only a poorly trained telephone answering receptionist. She spends most of her time answering the phone and playing games on the computer, or watching TV.  His name is Andrew Buckley, DMD, educated at Illinois, comes from New England.  Anyway, he has let me bring in a couple of our young men and take radiographs so I could do a proper exam.  He even let me bring Gaye in to repair a chipped front tooth.  So here are some photos of his office.  I am really impressed that he can work in these conditions.  He uses old-fashioned films and processor.  I mentioned that he has no assistant.  None.  The whole office is about the size of our reception room in Twin Falls.  Last week the power was off for 6 hours (it happens frequently) and he was running on an emergency generator that barely provided enough power to get the work done.  I am glad I am retired.  

There are usually chairs out here for a waiting area.

I am standing right in the front door.  The front office is barely big enough for one person.

Tashima.  She answers the phone.

Second operatory.  Quite narrow.

First Op. Film processor is in the lower Right.

Lab, sterilizer room, supplies, lunch room, fridge, etc

Looking back out towards reception area.

Fixed her smile.  She is much happier.

Tashima.  She likes to pose for photos.


  1. Wow! I think we are accustomed to lots of bells and whistles in dental offices here! Spacious waiting rooms and operatories. It seems that even an assistant is a luxury. I'm guessing he does his own hygiene. Probably hand instrument scaling on heavy deposit when the patient comes in for fillings or something. We probably spoil our patients so Americans are super fussy. I would love to go there and observe! Good post!

  2. "She likes to pose for photos." - that's funny. Also what is the white funnel in the film processor photo?

  3. Not quite like being in Guatemala, but close! Looks like quite the experience. Glad you are able to help some young people get on their mission.