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Jamaica Journals

The following article, which describes a patient's treatment during the Jamaica 2002 Missions trip, appeared in the Christian Dental Society's Fall 2002 newsletter.

Why Dental Missions?

by William Griffin, DDS, Yorktown, VA

His name was Casey. He was in his early 20's and had been suffering with a dental infection in his palate for who knows how long. He showed up at our makeshift dental clinic in Mavis Bank, Jamaica on Thursday afternoon looking for help. Back home in Virginia, we would have put him on antibiotics for a week, then perhaps refer him to an oral surgeon, but in this instance we had less than 24 hours before we wouldbe packing up for home.

As the patient was seated and screened by two dental students from the University of Iowa, it became clear that he was petrified of dental treatment. His pain must have been quite severe to cause him to seek help. He also appeared to be mildly retarded. We incised the palatal abscess to enable it to drain, gave him some antibiotics and asked him to return in the morning for extraction of the offending tooth.

The next morning Casey was at the front of a long line of patients to be treated. His abscess was still quite prominent, emanating from what was left of tooth #13, his upper left second premolar. The tooth was badly decayed, barely visible through the overgrown gingiva. Without x-rays there was no way to know the angulation of the roots, which was eventually found to be about 30 degrees towards the palate and to the distal. In addition, it was soon discovered that the patient had an active gag reflex.

As one might imagine, various attempts to anesthetize the patient were only partly successful. Considerable surgery was necessary in order to remove enough bone to expose the tooth. The tooth. The first attempt to remove the tooth with forceps resulted in a fracture, leaving two fragments of root deeply embedded into the palate. Four students restrained and encouraged Casey so that treatment could be completed. The suction was too weak to allow for clear visibility of the area. About midway through the procedure, Casey sprung up in the chair and lost his breakfast - everything came out except those two root tips. Finally, after an hour of wrestling with the most difficult extraction in my 19 years in dentistry, the root tips were removed. I thanked God for His faithfulness, splashed some water on my face, and went to see the next patient.

Later that afternoon we happened to see Casey walking along the only road in Mavis Bank. He looked up and gave us a tired but contented smile. Why am I involved in Mission Dentistry? For Casey and so many others like him, so that they will know the love of our great God.

Dr. Griffin met Casey on a dental missions trip to Jamaica from July 13 to July 20, 2002.