Earlier this summer, 10 dental professionals travelled from across the United States to remote villages in Argentina as part of Smiles for Argentina, an exploratory humanitarian outreach partnership between Aspen Dental and International Medical Relief (IMR).
From June 29 to July 6, the team conducted cleanings, extractions, fillings, and other life-changing procedures for more than 800 patients within staged clinic sites in government health centers. The volunteers also provided children with the education and tools they need to continue proper oral hygiene habits.
The team visited three sites in the province of Mendoza, all within trash dump communities or squatter villages. While government programs are available so locals can receive dental checkups, many of these individuals cannot afford the fees associated with the oftentimes extensive care that they need.
The residents of these pueblos and asentimientos also are plagued by a lack of education when it comes to dental care and prevention of dental disease, an overall high mortality rate, high incidence of diseases, and little to no access to dental care in addition to poverty.
According to Aspen Dental, along with providing access to care and oral health education, the volunteers also provided a sense of hope and empowered these patients with knowledge about their dental health while treating the urgent needs that affect their well-being and quality of life.
For example, the team cleaned the teeth of a young father who lives in a small shack with five children and expecting a sixth who works for about $8 a day, seven days a week. The team also performed much needed extractions on his children.
The team performed extractions on a 4-year-old girl who had infected baby teeth as well. Without the extractions, Aspen Dental says, a life-threatening abscess may have formed.
“We did more than break down barriers to care. We truly changed lives. The people we served said that we brought blessings and a sense of hope to these communities, because of our care and compassion. This is why we will continue to serve people all over the world,” said Anita Imadomwanyi, DDS, director of clinical support and charitable giving at Aspen Dental.
Imadomwanyi was among Aspen Dental’s team of volunteers, which also included:
- Practice owner John Ihnen, DMD, of Louisville, Kentucky
- Practice owner Jean Mary Robert Marius, DDS, of West Melbourne, Florida
- Practice owner Vatsala Maheshwari, DDS, of Forsyth, Illinois
- Partner Kevin Acone, DDS, of Williston, Vermont
- Associate Renita Cox, DDS, of Longview, Texas
- Lead hygienist Francis Vegerano of Eugene, Oregon
- Lead hygienist Elena Cortes of Middletown, New York
- Lead dental assistant Angelina Lopez of Portage, Michigan
- Dental assistant Kelly Lee Baker of Kenosha, Wisconsin
A small medical team comprising an ophthalmologist, a medical student, a pharmacy student, and a pre-medical student also joined the mission to provide other care. IMR provided the supplies and equipment for the trip, some of which was present at the government health centers.