This is an excerpt from Mary Jensen’s article featured in Dentistry IQ:
Alliance for Smiles Bangladesh Mission Trip, February 2015
Volunteering? Is it for you? If you are a dental professional, then the answer is YES!
I just returned from my ninth medical mission trip with Alliance for Smiles (AFS). AFS is a non-profit organization that provides free reconstructive surgery to children with cleft lips and cleft palates in Africa, China, the Philippines, and Bangladesh. Supported by donations and Rotary grants, AFS takes several full medical and dental teams on two-week mission trips.
These trips are life-changing . . . for both the child and the volunteer.
My recent trip to Bangladesh began with over 30 hours of travel to Dhaka, the capital city. I am allowed two bags, one of which is all my dental supplies. The mission team volunteers gel as a unit instantly, despite the fact that we come from all over the world with a variety of backgrounds and specialties. Our dedicated mission director keeps us all focused and on-task. We truly become one synchronized unit. We are greatly assisted by the local Rotary group and excellent translators.
The first day the team screens over 100 children. It is humbling to watch the parents as well as the children put so much trust in our work. Each child is weighed, measured, and photographed. Then they meet with a surgical team, which consists of a plastic surgeon, an anesthesiologist, and an OR nurse. After this they are examined by a pediatrician. Finally, the dental team—my team—does a screening. We primarily look for gross decay and abscesses. Every child receives a prophylaxis, oral hygiene instruction (for the entire family), fluoride varnish, sealants if needed, and basic nutritional counseling. Dental treatment must be done prior to the child’s surgery . . . that’s when it becomes “crunch time” to get the needed work done.
One of my favorite parts of these mission trips is the quick bond I feel with these kids. They and their families are so appreciative of the work being provided. I get to see the child before, sometimes during, and after their surgery. The results are amazing! In Bangladesh, the team treated 80 children on this two-week trip. The entire medical team sees the connection between the overall health of the child and their dental health. I am so proud to be a part of this organization.