Atitlan Dental Health

For most of the Mayan villagers in San Antonio Palopo and Santa Catarina Palopo in Guatemala, many go through their lives without ever seeing a dentist. In 2011, Rotarians Jacqueline Mealing and Dr. John Snively headed south from Victoria, BC to examine the dental health of Mayans living in the Lake Atitlan area. They found that large numbers of people never visited a dentist; many had never even used a toothbrush. They did what they could with basic instruments and local anaesthetic, resolving to return with the means to make a difference.

After months of presentations to Rotary Clubs in British Columbia, they had raised sufficient funds to buy a mobile dental unit–an Aseptico “Transport II” system. This suitcase-type unit was necessary, as it was easily transportable. For six weeks, they treated patients in the two villages. Of the 310 patients seen, only 12 needed no treatment. One hundred and fifty-three teeth were extracted, 73 teeth were filled, and 32 patients received cleanings. Time was taken when possible to instruct on dental hygiene in schools and the community center. This initiative has had tremendous impact on the residents of these communities, who have now learned how to maintain dental health.