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The experience as a dental practitioner on the Washington Overseas Mission brigade poses many unique and wonderful opportunities. It is amazing to us how, upon removing an extremely infected tooth that has been causing pain for many months, the patient rises from the chair and hugs us, or shakes our hand, just for giving them a “pain free” extraction.  Many of the areas we visit do not have access to dental care and when it is available, it is limited, lacking local anesthetic and may not be performed by trained dentists.  Patients in our brigade clinics commonly require multiple extractions.
Depending on our location and available space, we will set up our dental clinic outside under the canopy of trees or on the porch of a local school to take advantage of the sunlight while working. We use battery-powered lights attached to our safety glasses due to the lack of proper lighting.  We have portable dental chairs for our patients and are able to provide both operative and surgical extractions.  We mainly focus on restorations involving front teeth and small restorations of back teeth.  We take X-rays on a limited, as-needed basis with a portable, battery-powered x-ray machine. We have wonderful volunteers who clean our instruments and provide high-level liquid disinfection.  We set up and break down our dental equipment and clinic daily during these brigades usually lasting 10 days, with 6 clinical days.  We try to work 3 days, take a day off and work another 3 days.  We welcome the day off.  As you know, dental extractions and multiple restorations can be physically and mentally exhausting!
The expense of the trip and the time out of the office is far out-weighed by the friendships, smiles, “thank-you’s”, the amazing coffee, and the feeling of accomplishment of relieving pain and suffering. We used to joke that the way to get ready for your Honduran dental experience is to turn off your x-ray machine and do all your extractions without the benefit of an x-ray:). Seriously, it will be the experience of a lifetime and you will have many stories and accomplishments to share with your teams at home, in addition to the sense of pride in knowing you have made a profound difference in the lives of the poorest of the poor in Honduras.

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