Testimony for the Mexico Trip

My name is Sierra DeMarree and I’m a 4th year.

This spring,  7 4th year BU dental students were able to go on the trip of a lifetime to Teacapan Mexico.   Under the leadership of Dr. John Ficarelli. Dr. Andrew Ficarelli and, a BU alumni, Dr. Frank Schiano, and with the help of two dentists from Cancun Mexico we were able to see around 800 children in just two weeks!  Some of the children were residents of Teacapan, a poor fishing village, and others were children of the migrant workers who were there just to pick chilies. We got to perform as much minimally invasive dentistry as we possibly could.

This was how the clinic operated:

As the children arrived at the clinic we started by having them brush their teeth, then they moved to the exam room where several regular plastic patio chairs and a table were set up.  We, the providers, sat in one  chair,  and the child was positioned in another chair in front of us, facing the same way we were. We then tipped the chair back onto our laps to do our exam and one of the Teacapan Gringo Amigos charted for us. If the child did not need any work, which was indicative of a patient who has been seen by Project Stretch for many years, they were brought to the fluoride station. If the child needed care, we ushered them indoors to the treatment area where there were two dental chairs with mobile dental units. This is where we provided cleanings, sealants, SDF, glass ionomer restorations, and extractions.

I went into this trip with the mindset that I was not comfortable treating children, particularly ones that I couldn’t communicate fully with!   The first couple of days were rocky for me particularly with the administration of anesthesia. But, with the help of Dr. John Ficarelli a local pediatric dentist, I learned techniques not only for the administration of the anesthesia but also how to manage anxious pediatric patients.  I soon found confidence and treating the children easier. I extracted bombed out pediatric teeth which was a great experience because it is not an experience that we get at school.  Although treating difficult pediatric children is still not in my future I feel more comfortable treating non-difficult pediatric patients.

Overall, we all felt that the community of Amigos that helps with the Project Stretch clinic was truly remarkable. Everyone was welcoming, kind, and extremely helpful. They are genuinely the nicest people you could ever meet

We  saw that other areas of the world do not have the same access to healthcare that we are so fortunate to have. Most of us already knew this, but had never seen it firsthand.   

The culture of Teacapan is very different from anywhere we had been. Most families placed emphasis on their children attending school, or starting to work at a very young age. The latter was hard to see. One example that we saw first-hand was a migrant worker and her sister who stopped on their way home from the fields. The older sister said she was 16 and the younger sister said that she was 8. When we examined her we noted that her 12 year molars were completely erupted and in occlusion. We figured what the family did was celebrate the girl’s birthday up until the age of 8 and then couldn’t afford to or didn’t have time to celebrate and so the girl stopped counting her years without birthdays. This is possible when children are migrants and do not attend school.

We all saw how much the children enjoyed receiving toothbrushes and toothpaste, and because we demonstrated the proper way to brush, we believe they will be more likely to continue this when we are no longer there.

Interacting with the children and witnessing the difference that Project Stretch has made in Teacapan who live in less than ideal conditions yet had huge smiles on their faces gave us a different perspective coming back to the United States.

Most of us want to visit Teacapan again and this has truly cemented the fact that we want to continue volunteering in a dental capacity for the rest of our lives. We loved helping people, want to go on trips like this throughout our careers. I know that, like all the students on this trip, I will absolutely be doing another international outreach trip because of how large the impact Teacapan and project stretch had on me.