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Global Dentistry: Atoyac, Mexico

By Kassie Sicam, ASDOH Class of 2021

Growing up, I was so fortunately surrounded by dentistry. Having a dad as a dentist, I was always interested in the profession, but I wasn’t certain that it was right for me. What solidified my career choice was when I started working with the underserved at the UC San Diego Free Dental Clinics. I never saw this side of dentistry and how rewarding giving back to the community could be. One of my mentors in the clinic would rave about her mission trips abroad. While she enjoyed working with us in San Diego, she mentioned that she also loved being able to travel and provide care to those who needed it the most. I knew someday I also wanted to go on one and I wanted to choose a school that would support those desires.

Ultimately, choosing ASDOH was a no-brainer for me and I couldn’t wait to continue this type of work abroad during dental school. When I heard about the Latin World Ministries trip to Mexico, I jumped at the opportunity. Our first clinic site was in Atoyac, Mexico. Once we arrived, I didn’t know what to expect. First off, the site was outdoors on a basketball court. We had mobile units, foldable chairs, and a considerable amount of people already waiting for dental care. This was also during summer in Mexico. Looking at my peers eagerly setting up the mobile units amidst all the humidity with smiles on their faces, made me forget about the heat. I was excited to get started. As a D3 who hadn’t even done a single restoration on a patient before this trip, I was nervous to start my operative work. A lot of my fellow D3s were also in the same boat. By the end of the trip, we were all extracting teeth, giving cleanings, and providing more operative work than I would have ever expected. Over 260 patients were served with 529 dental procedures, totaling about $97,697 in treatment. We were able to complete most of the patients’ treatment plans, which far exceeded my expectations. While I am grateful to have enhanced my clinical skills in Mexico, I realized that it wasn’t about that at all.

Collectively as a team, we were able to relieve patients’ pain and provide them with more confidence through their smiles. One case that stood out to me was a man with ankyloglossia (tongue-tied). Dr. Grajales was able to do a frenectomy, which completely changed the quality of this man’s life through improving his ability to communicate freely. This trip not only broadened my scope of dentistry, but changed my perspective on life. There are days when I complain and maybe even take things for granted. Now, when days seem tough, I always think back to this trip. These people didn’t have much but would provide us with food out of gratitude for our services. They never complained and were beyond grateful for every treatment. It is these people who made me realize how fortunate I am and I look forward to providing more services to the underserved in the future.

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