Kool Smiles’ Dr. Deborah Butler and Dr. Janyn Baird recently went on a medical mission trip to Bolivia with Flying Doctors of America, where they provided dental care at a low-security prison facility in Santa Cruz. The mission trip was part of Kool Smiles’ new “Kool Doctors Giving Back” initiative. Dr. Butler journaled about her experiences during the trip and was kind enough to share her stories with us! Read on to learn about her time there:
“We spent six days at the Santa Cruz prison, treating the children and families of those incarcerated,” Dr. Butler wrote. “Many of the children we met had never seen a dentist. Basic dental supplies like toothbrushes and toothpaste are often hard to acquire as well, and contribute to the area’s poor oral health.
“The highlight of my trip was when I had the chance to meet Natalie, a shy, seven-year-old little girl who had never been to the dentist before. Though timid at first, Natalie soon warmed up to me and was excited to have her teeth examined.”
“Soon I had her giggling and even laughing! We were high five-ing, fist bumping and I was making exaggerated movements. She really liked that! Then she hugged me again on the legs. I bent over and scooped her up into my arms. We giggled, and smiled at each other, not speaking, just eye contact and smiling.”
Later in the week, Natalie’s father approached Dr. Butler to deliver his personal thanks for treating his daughter. “I may have seen a tear or two in dad’s eyes as they turned around and left,” Dr. Butler recalled.
During their time in Santa Cruz, Dr. Butler and her colleagues conducted dozens of dental examinations, extractions, restorative procedures, and cleanings. The dentists also provided the families with dental health kits and Spanish-language dental health education materials so they can keep up with their oral health in the future.
Dr. Butler was drawn to practice dentistry out of her desire to make others happy and help underserved communities. “It is my firm belief that every person deserves access to dental care, no matter where they live,” said Dr. Butler. “I’m grateful to have had the opportunity make a difference in the community and put a smile on so many faces.”
To learn more about the Bolivia mission trip and the October trip to Peru, please visit the Kool Smiles Gives Back page!