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Mission: Save a Smile

My son Garrett (a second-year dental student at the University of Minnesota) recently joined me on a dental mission trip to Panama with a group from “Mission: Save a Smile.”  Dr. Chris Burseth is the founder of “Mission: Save a Smile,” and his son is a member of Garrett’s dental class.  We spent a week on a remote island on the Caribbean side of Panama treating an indigenous population of Kuna Indians, a proud people who are trying to hang on to their unique lifestyle which has been relatively unchanged for generations.  Unfortunately, trade with neighboring Columbia brings in candy and processed foods – which has skyrocketed decay for a population with very little oral hygiene perception or habits.  

Using portable dental equipment, we performed many procedures to try to save teeth along with extracting many badly infected teeth.  The 600 school-aged children on the small island were the main focus of the group; they all received fluoride treatments, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and oral hygiene education and instruction.

Although the extent of need was overwhelming, it was a successful and satisfying trip and we both are planning on returning to Panama in the future

– from Dr. Clause

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