The Smiles We Made… in Jamaica mon!

 Anthea Chang, Vanessa Del Vecchio and Sonia Rampersad, 3rd year undergraduate dental students, recently returned from an incredible dental experience in Jamaica hosted by Great Shape! Inc., a charitable organisation that provides education and dental and eye care to thousands of Jamaicans. This was a pilot trip that, hopefully, will be instrumental in building a long-lasting school partnership – and annual student trip – with Great Shape!’s 1000 Smiles, the world’s largest international humanitarian dental project. From April 22 to 29, we participated in a Dental Sealant Project with a focus on education and prevention. Sealants and fluoride treatments help reduce the children’s caries experience avoiding oral pain, preserving precious employment prospects, and promoting a lifetime of healthy smiles. Our project was located at Cambridge Primary school, an agricultural community located 45 minutes into the Nassau mountains from the city of Montego Bay. This population has difficult access to dental care: there is only one dentist per 100,000 people. A patient looking for an appointment would have to wait over a year. There was an overwhelming dental need, as 70% of children had dental decay. Under the supervision of Dr. Sherwin Shinn, Great Shape!’s clinical director and 2013 ADA Humanitarian Award Recipient, along with Leanne Rodine, a dental public health hygienist from Calgary and the Sealant Project coordinator, we were a group of 24 volunteers, mostly hygiene students and dental hygienists. From an impressive temporary clinic consisting of 12 operatories, sterilization and portable radiography, we provided extractions of hopeless teeth, restorations, sealants, fluoride, oral health instruction and lots of love! A small secondary clinic was set-up at the Sandals Resort that hosted project volunteers, to provide free dental care to Sandals employees, hard-working Jamaicans from the local and surrounding communities. It was tremendously rewarding to save a child’s permanent first molars, restore a complete smile to a woman who broke her two front teeth, or to simply create a positive first dental visit for a young and impressionable patient. During our short week in Jamaica, we learned dentistry, made lasting connections, and changed lives for the better. We look forward to sharing our stories and working together to establish the Great Shape! experience as an enriching curriculum opportunity available to our student peers. We are very grateful for the generous support from our McGill family of students, staff, instructors, alumni and Faculty for providing donations, needed supplies and equipment loans, and participating in our Flavours of Jamaica Raffle.

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