Saturday, October 9, 2010

Ensenada dental clinic a success

It is a pleasant, early Saturday and the people in the hills above Ensenada are gathering at the local Church, not for services, but to see the dentist. There is an air of excitement, since people who may have been in pain for weeks or months now have a once-a-year opportunity to have their worst dental problems fixed. The clinic is in the Iglesia Betesda church, located in the hills east of Ensenada. The pastor, Felipe Saurez de Jesus, has built this church with his own hands over the past decade to administer to the poor, mostly immigrant families from the southern parts of Mexico who move north looking for jobs. And it’s not his first. His previous church, also built by his own hands, sits on another hilltop about a half-mile away. His commitment to his parishioners and his community is what attracted Dr. Charles Tozzer to help almost a decade ago.

Dr. Tozzer founded Dental Care for Children, an Irvine based non-profit dedicated to helping children with free dental care wherever they may be. Presently, his organization participates in eight clinics a year; four in Mexico, two in Haiti and two in the United States. But he’s become a resource for other dentists and organizations wanting to set up clinics in other areas. With his help and assistance, there are now free clinics in Africa and Central America. DCFC has been providing services to this underserved part of Baja California for over eighteen years and have earned the gratitude of the entire community. There is always a line of people waiting for this annual opportunity to be seen by a dentist.

Each clinic’s primary aim is to do something for everyone but the volunteers realize that it is almost impossible to completely meet everyone’s needs. So they try to treat people who need help the most, or whose condition can be dealt with quickly. The dentists provide a real gamut of services from x-rays to crowns, from cleanings and fillings, even to root canals and dentures. But often, the only solution for many is to remove the teeth, which is done in about a third of the cases.

The 22-person dental staff, a few of them in their final studies at USC dental school and working under the supervision of the licensed U.S. dentists, provide more than $66,000 in free dental care during this visit.

Since there will be a follow-up visit in five weeks they are able to do impressions for crowns and partial dentures to replace missing teeth. The lab work is donated by U.S. companies to restore dental function for these people. They will also be able to evaluate the results of the hygiene services and training they provide to help these people keep their teeth.

Project funding is accomplished by direct grants and support from other organizations. The Irvine Rotary club has been a key sponsor, each year underwriting two of the clinics in Ensenada and one in Irvine. Irvine Rotary pairs up with the Rotary Club of Ensenada Calafia to select and manage two projects that are held in local elementary schools. The local club works with the Ensenada school district to select the school most in need. On one Saturday, the clinic is open to all the children who attend the school. The children get their teeth checked and fixed while the parents, Rotarians and teachers help fix up the school.

Dental Care for Children makes sure that everything is done using the latest in equipment and in compliance with local rules and regulations. They prepare extensive paperwork that has to be submitted to both U.S. and Mexican Customs, certifying the origins, dates of manufacture, and usages. In order to comply they are greatly helped by the advice and assistance of Señor Héctor Higuera, the Chief of Tourist Assistance, who has been very clear and helpful about the requirements and paperwork required to allow for a smooth and problem free border crossing. For this trip, Señor Higuera met the team at the border and complimented them on their service and attention to detail in preparing all of the necessary forms to make the border crossing easier.