Indiana School of Dentistry Partners with Konojel in 2016

The Konojel Community Center, a project of the All Together Foundation, is proud to announce a partnership with the Indiana University School of Dentistry (IUSD) for 2016 in San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala. IUSD has been offering an International Service Learning program in Haiti, Vietnam, Mexico, Kenya, Guatemala, and Ecuador since 2000. The goal of the program is to provide dental services and oral health education to underserved populations in response to their needs, and to partner with an on-site community organization to incorporate their assets in both service and learning aspects of the program.

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In July, 2015, Odette Aguirre-Zero, a Guatemalan who is the Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomaterials and Applied Sciences at IUSD, visited San Marcos with her team to run a pilot project assessing the dental needs of the community. The state of dental oral health that the team found after examining 113 individuals in San Marcos was grim. An index of Decayed, Missing, and Filled Teeth (DMFT index) was taken, and a score of 5.6 was found. For context, the World Health Organization declared a worldwide goal of 3 by the year 2000, meaning that our sample in San Marcos scored almost twice as poorly as the WHO goal from 16 years ago! The DMFT index is well established as the key measurement for overall dental health.

After a pilot assessment project, both Konojel and IUSD saw the need to bring dental healthcare to San Marcos, where:

“Most of the children and adults had not seen a dentist for many years, or ever, and for some, dental pain is part of their daily lives. The impact of unmet oral care needs is heightened by the clear connection between oral health and overall health. Poor oral health decreases quality of life as it is associated with malnutrition, speech difficulties, esthetic problems, diabetes, heart disease and premature births. Given the fact that we were only able to do a needs assessment, it was difficult to see these cases and be unable to provide immediate aid.”

While San Marcos is a town rich in agriculture and tourism, there are fundamental health issues that have been impacting the community for hundreds of years. With 73% of the population living in poverty, and 17% living in extreme poverty, access to doctors and dentists is difficult. Preventative checkups and care are non-existent due to the costs involved — taking the day off of work, taking a boat to the closest doctor or dentist, and paying for the services. Because of this, these services are only used during an emergency.

Konojel children receive toothbrushes

Konojel children receive toothbrushes

Odette, her team of 6 final year dental students, and a Guatemalan dentist will be working in San Marcos for 1 week in March, focusing on applying dental sealants (a plastic white coating) to children’s molars to prevent cavities, performing tooth extractions, white fillings, gum cleaning, and a fluoride varnish. This is the first service in what Konojel hopes is a multi-year partnership.

“I believe that Konojel’s mission of improving nutrition in San Marcos aligns perfectly with our mission of making dental care accessible to relieve people from dental pain and disease. After all, proper nutrition cannot take place if oral function is compromised. We share a desired outcome: to improve the quality of life of the Marquenses.”

Konojel continues to strive to meet our goals of eliminating chronic malnutrition and endemic poverty by partnering with organizations like IUSD to meet the specific needs of our community. If you would like to make a donation to help fund our dentistry program, please click on the button below to make a secure, tax-deductible donation to the All Together Foundation.