Belize Dental Mission Trip
Since I was young, I have been surrounded by many dentists. My mom, aunt, uncle, and grandpa are all dentists. However, to me, they were just Mom, Auntie, Uncle, and Grandpa. Even though I was so close to so many dentists, I was never interested in dentistry. I never thought about dentistry as a career until high school. Like many high school students, I had no idea what to do with my life. I decided that I should first start with dentistry because of how intertwined my family was with the profession. That summer, I started working at my mom’s office as a dental assistant. However, I was still not convinced that dentistry was right for me. It wasn’t until I went on a dental mission trip with my mom to Belize, where I realized that I wanted to pursue dentistry. To this day, it’s one of the most unique and amazing experiences I’ve had in my life.
From the start of the mission trip, it was clear that this group had a common goal and purpose to help as many people with the best care. Never before had I seen people working so zealously for people who they had just met. While working with my mom, another dentist, a current dental student, and a hygienist, I saw their passion and love for helping others through dentistry. Patient after patient came in with broken teeth, rotten teeth, and painful teeth. While assisting my mom, I was able to see her fix everything that came her way. I remember one of our patients, Richard, who was around my age with a massive cavity on one of his second molars. It had been bothering him for a while, but going to the dentist was not the norm there. While suctioning for my mom, I got to see her expertly clean the tooth and use amalgam to fix the tooth and that he was comfortable with his bite. I was constantly amazed how we were able to have a positive impact on a patient’s life in such a short amount of time.
This experience also gave me a perspective and passion for educating patients on oral health. Growing up in the US and around dentists as family members, it was clear to me on how to brush and floss my teeth every day in order to take care of myself. Going to Belize, it was almost the complete opposite because they had no access to dental care. This emphasized the need to teach patients how to maintain their health and equip them with the needed materials. It was important to teach the patients how to maintain oral health practices so that they could live healthier, happier lives. Oral health is not only an issue limited to Belize but is an issue that extends in communities all over the US. This is a health crisis that is preventable through education. This experience gave me an opportunity to show how impactful dentistry could be, especially to those who need it most.
Caleb Lim, Pepperdine University, 2022