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Dentists humbled by overseas mission
They’re the smiles that can’t be faked, freshly clean, straight and wide, and the ones dentist Paresh Shah sees every day in his line of work.
But for now, it’s a 14-year-old girl some 12,000 kilometres away in Uganda whose smile has struck the St. James-Assiniboia dentist the most.
"She had cavities everywhere in her mouth, her two front teeth were just black with decay and all she wanted was to be able to smile," Shah said in a recent interview.
"Two or three of us took care of all the really bad teeth. We handed her a mirror and she just smiled and had this tear.
"This particular girl, she’s 14 years old, it’s a big. Do you get that here? You get it, but the impact that made on us was different."
Shah, along with four other Winnipeg dental pros and their families, recently returned from a dental mission in the struggling Third World country.
The team was in Kampala for a week as part of the Mondetta Charity Foundation’s Uganda Dental Clinic Mission serving the primary school in the inner-city community of Kamwokya.
There, they provided fillings and cleanings, and even pulled some teeth from among 300 children, many of whom had never seen or even used a toothbrush.
"The decay that was there was a lot more advanced than we thought it would be," Shah said.
"Their diet is not heavy in sugar, they’re not drinking pop, they’re not eating candy bars, but they lack the ability to have proper oral hygiene. Unfortunately for some of these children, we had to take out their permanent teeth."
St. James orthodontist Tim Dumore, along with Tuxedo-based dentists Anastasia Cholakis and Carla Cohn, and River Heights-based dentist Ken Shek also made the trip.
Aside from lending their dentistry skills, the dentists and their families found themselves in the classroom teaching science and math, as well as on the field playing soccer.
"It was far more than just dental and medical," Shah said.
"We made a connection on a completely emotional level. Each one of us had tears in our eyes at some point because someone had tugged on our heart strings somewhere."
The group members were so impacted by what they saw that each of them chose to sponsor a few students from the school.
"There’s so much need, so much poverty," said Cohn, who lives in River Heights, noting her family sponsored two young boys and a young girl, all orphans.
"It’s such a small amount to sponsor these kids and give them a future."
Shah, along with the Mondetta organization, is already planning for the future. Part of the recent trip included meetings with Kampala city councillors, along with country health and education ministers about financing the building of a permanent clinic.
"If they build a health centre, we will make a commitment to providing the services , dentists, nurses, doctors, equipment and supplies," said Shah, noting he is soon meeting with a team of Chicago dentists interested in taking part.
"It was challenging, it was rewarding, and it was frustrating. There was so much need and we had so little time," Cohn added.
"We left a bit of ourselves in Uganda. It will certainly be repeated again. I’m not sure when, but I’ll get back there."
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(1 of 14 articles for this week)05/22/2013 1:00 AM 0
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