Nothing but root fragments

Jan 19, 2016


By Laura Sumner Coon

An array of kitchen towels and scarves held to mouths can be spotted among the crowd of patients at the clinic. They come prepared, knowing they will have teeth extracted.

Dentists at the clinic say that the condition of their teeth and gums are result of very poor nutrition and hygiene. Sugar cane, fruit juice and Coca Cola are the culprits, along with a lack of toothbrushes.

Public health nurse Paula McNiel, who counsels patients to help provide more nutrition prevention, says she meets with an average of 25 patients a day. Only one in the four days of the clinic so far did not let her son drink soda. On average, people are drinking three to seven Coca Colas each day and four to five cups of coffee, of course with six spoons of sugar.

Like every area of the clinic, there is a limit to how many teeth this team can pull during daylight hours. With five dentists and a hygienist on the team this year, about 40 patients get in each day. Today, 46-year-old Ipolito is one of them.

Dentist Scott Arbit is on his first mission. He focuses on Ipolito’s mouth, where seven teeth have completely rotted out and only the root tips remain. Scott and Hygenist Sandy Hoffmann diligently work to balance Ipolito’s comfort. It has been a challenge, since the dentists are working with aging methods of anesthetizing and much work to accomplish.

Tooth decay knows no age. Earlier in the day, a five-year old sat in Scott’s chair, and he pulled five baby teeth, one for every year she has lived. Bruce Newton, an interpreter in the dental area walks out, smiling. “She was a real trooper,” he says.

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