To the right of the Peronia clinic entrance, nestled between the patient education stations and the clinic administrative building stands a new installation – one that has nothing to do with dentistry, and everything to do with the individual efforts that make the Open Wide Peronia clinic successful in Guatemala.
It is a bright colored swing set and children play by the hour on the happy arrangement of pipes and chains feeling that the Open Wide Peronia clinic is a place where they are welcome and safe.
The swing set was the brainchild of Dr. Rodrigo Davila, a resident student from the University of San Carlos Dental School. After completing his dental classes and practicum at the public university in Guatemala City, Rodrigo was sent to do a residency at the Peronia clinic for his mandatory year of community service. He spent much of his time focusing on pediatric dentistry while taking every opportunity to expand his skills through mentorship with Open Wide volunteers.
As his year in the clinic was coming to a close, he chose to focus his final thesis project on children as well. Rodrigo secured the funding to purchase and install a new swing set, giving the children he had come to know and care for something fun to do while they waited to see the dentist or receive oral health education.
The swing set is only a small part of the good work that Rodrigo has been doing while working at the clinic. During his residency he participated in the Open Wide sponsored Special Needs and Pediatric Specialty Weeks, helped to coordinate an outreach to a group home for the handicapped and showed a commitment to serving the local population both at the clinic and at local elementary schools by giving hundreds of fluoride washes, along with oral health and cavity prevention talks. Rodrigo officially received his license in December 2014 and has since been hired at the Peronia clinic full time. He is a welcome addition to the Peronia team!!
Reaching out to local communities to teach the importance of oral health has been a priority of Open Wide since it’s inception. The efforts of Rodrigo and all the other dentists and volunteers in the Open Wide clinic are paying off. We are seeing more and more Peronians visiting the dentist regularly and practicing good oral health habits at home. One of the most exciting trends is the reduction of the number of extractions done in the clinic over the past 3 years, as seen in the charts below. Extractions have dropped from 22% to 11% of total procedures.
Three years ago, before Open Wide, there were no permanent clinics or trained dentists in Peronia. Now clinic doors are open wide year round, ushering in the opportunity to teach a new mentality of preventive care. This kind of paradigm shift doesn’t happen overnight but it is coming. It will take time and a sustained commitment to compassionate and affordable dental care and of course… don’t forget…a swing set!!