Thanks to generous donors Rebekah Jones, DDS, our dentist, opened the Comunident Dental Clinic in Grano de Oro in March 2016. The permanent clinic has state of the art equipment for x-rays, cleanings, fillings and maintaining electronic patient files – 700 were created in the first year, but this is just a small percentage of the 8,000 indigenous residents who need dental services. We provide specialized treatments – root canals, laminated composite veneers, and oral surgery. There is also a basic laboratory to make partial or full dentures for patients who have lost teeth. Our equipment for the mobile clinic can be loaded on horses and hauled to strategically located communities within the Cabécar Reservation for cleanings, fillings, doing extractions and to examine patients being referred for more specialized care at the Comunident Dental Clinic.
Rebekah alternates between working at the permanent clinic and with the mobile clinic. She has trained two Cabécar women as assistants at the dental clinic and one of them is also training as a lab technician for making the dentures. In the future Rebekah hopes to mentor indigenous dental health promoters in the reservation who will teach oral health classes in the schools and homes, and do dental check-ups to screen patients being referred to the dentist.
With the introduction of new foods and refined sugar into the Cabécars’ diet in the last 10 years, there has been an increase in oral health problems. It is most evident in the many children with “Bottle Mouth Syndrome” who have decayed teeth caused by drinking sugary beverages. One 16-month-old patient had to have teeth extracted due to decay and pain. Rebekah hopes that with increased education, and long-term treatment, the focus will soon change from the current invasive dental care to preventative care.
Our Dental Clinic Project is funded by donations that cover the ongoing expenses – rent, electric bills, staff wages, dental supplies, and the trips into the reservation. These trips alone cost about $500 per week. There are a variety of ways to donate.