Bruce C. McArthur, DDS
6565 West Jewell Ave.
Lakewood, CO 80232
The clinic went pretty well today… one surprise was when the power went out in the whole town for a couple of hours. Good thing we had our generators! We got an extra one for this trip, since we heard the power was out a few days a couple of weeks ago! (Thanks Roger for your foresight here!)
We met one young man, maybe in his low twenties, who had a large abscess coming from one of his upper front teeth. It wasn’t really hurting him now, but it surely will soon, and the only options were to pull the tooth (a front tooth on a young man!) or wait for it to get horribly painful later and have a dentist in the city take it out then. If only we could do a root canal for him, we might be able to save that tooth! But we are not set up to do root canals here… or are we? Cherryl said she saw some root canal materials somewhere in our donated stuff. We had our digital x-ray unit, we found the needed files, improvised some sealant, and hand shaped a gutta percha point for the final filling material. We substituted some instruments and started to work! As we got started, someone asked how much longer we would be, and I said at least an hour. A little while later, she asked again – seems he was supposed to catch a bus for an 8 hour ride home… and it was leaving anytime now! They would hold the bus for a little while longer. It was about then that the power went out. But our computerized digital x-ray could run on batteries, and we kept on. Got him finished, and arranged a ride up the hill to the town center where he could get his bus. I haven’t found out if he made it.
Towards the close of the day, Dr Johnson had a very challenging extraction on a boy of about eleven. He was our last dental patient for the day, and Dr Johnson finished about 6pm. The boy and his mother had ridden a donkey for 14 hours to get here! They were obviously not able to go home then, so we fed them dinner and got them back to the town square where they could get a place for the night.
As usual, it was dark when we walked back up to town. The occasional car that would pass us would stir up so much dust it looked like fog in the street lights. I didn’t get a really good picture of that because it didn’t seem good to pull my camera out in the dust storm!
As I was in my hotel room typing this, I heard a band playing outside, getting louder and louder. Ran out front to see a marching band go by our hotel, up to the corner, turn, and march off. Turns out it was just a school’s marching band out practicing. At 8pm.
So pretty much just another normal day here in Cascas!
Yesterday, Sunday, I did not get a blog post out. We had a very long day, and by the time I’d hiked the 0.8 miles up the dirt road in the dark to the hotel, and had my slightly warmer than freezing shower, I did not have the energy! I think I was asleep by 8:30pm.
So today was pretty much the same, but we’re getting in our groove… up around 5:30, partly because the many roosters crowing wouldn’t let you sleep longer even if you didn’t have work to get to. Start walking down the road to the clinic at about 6:30, to arrive before breakfast and make sure the clinic is setup and ready. Brenda and Oneida are fantastic workers, and of course have everything ready the night before and double checked in the morning before breakfast. This morning I stopped to photograph a man chopping branches off a tree in his garden, which was up about 12 feet above the road. He saw me, and wanted to see the picture, so he invited me to go back up the street to his gate, and up the path to his garden. I took more pictures, including some with his wife. They wanted me to get a picture of the house, and then wrote their names on a piece of paper for me. What fun!
After breakfast and worship, I made a call to our digital x-ray vendor to fix a problem we’d had with our digital x-rays yesterday. Had it fixed in a few minutes!
Lots of patient patients lined up outside our clinic, where they were checked in and evaluated for what type of procedures they could have done. We went pretty smoothly till noon, when we had a great lunch! Mid afternoon we had our next glitch… one of our new dental units, the power sources for all our electric drills, just quit! We tested all we thought we could, and finally called that companies’ tech support. They were helpful, but could not figure out what had gone wrong. We finally took it apart, and after some clever sleuthing found a solder connection that had been too hot when made, melting the insulation between two wires. It worked for 1.5 days, when the vibration finally wore through and the wires shorted together. We re-insulated, rebuilt all we had taken apart, and were back to work!
We had one woman who we were told walked all night last night to get here today. She had three little kids with her! One you can see sleeping in her lap as we worked on her. Another fell asleep waiting her turn!
While we are busy on the first floor doing dentistry, on the second and third floors there are medical exams going on. That is also where Tony and others are helping people into new glasses. That has caused a lot of excitement! The lines to get in that room are long – they even had to post traffic control to make sure the room isn’t overrun!
In spite of the glitches, we saw more patients than yesterday, and things went pretty smoothly. A great day! I again give great thanks to all of you who are a part of this trip by donating towards our work here, or by giving us your concern, good wishes and prayers!
We eat food. We swallow most of what we eat. The rest we leave on our teeth. Bummer.
The food we leave on our teeth generally is the same color as our teeth, so it blends in. It may be hard to see. It is soft at this point, and we call it “Plaque.”
There are bacteria in our mouths, and in the plaque. The bacteria are irritating to our gums, and harmful to our teeth. Gums get red and puffy; we call this gingivitis. Teeth get weak and have holes etched into them; we call this decay.
It gets worse. Sigh… If the plaque is not removed within 24 hours, it starts hardening like concrete. We call this “Tartar.” (If you want to sound like a dentist, you call it “Calculus”) (And no, this has nothing to do with differential equations)
This tartar, being like concrete, is rough. That means lots of nooks and crannies (like a microscopic English muffin?) for the next day’s worth of plaque to hide in. It is then harder to remove that next day’s plaque, so more tartar forms, and day by day it grows. This is even more irritating to the gums.
So the gums try to escape from this growing wad of tartar. (This would be the chase scene if this were a movie). As the gums move away from the tartar, or “recede,” the bone under the gums melts away as well. The more bone that melts away, the less there is left to support the tooth, and the tooth becomes loose. If this slow-motion chase goes on long enough, the tooth will fall out. Major bummer.
To prevent this from being a blockbuster disaster movie, there are ways we can interrupt the process early on. We can stop eating. Or maybe not. We can get every bit of plaque off after every time we do eat. Good plan, but honestly, sometimes we miss a bit. We can see a dentist as frequently as we need to make sure the tartar levels don’t build up too far.
Or I suppose we can get excited about the toothless look.
Let me know what you think!
I had a patient the other day ask me about those 3 in 1 brushes. Maybe you’ve seen them on TV. They look something you’d clean train tracks with: three brushes glued together so you can brush both sides and the top at the same time.
He was all excited about this – it’ll be faster! Now I know he’s a very busy guy. He owns and runs a great little Italian restaurant. So I asked him, “do you put your pizza dough in the microwave?” “Oh no! We would never put dough of any kind in a microwave!! It makes it tough!” Then we talked about how great food is never about faster, but about creative control.
I’m not going to say cleaning your teeth has too much in common with fine dining (although maybe you’ll find some leftovers; ugh!) but that control is very important. Instead of racing through your cleaning, how about using a good soft brush and spending some quality time with your gums? Two minutes gently massaging all your teeth, all surfaces, including up over the gums, and getting some floss in between them, will leave you clean and healthy – and better able to enjoy that next great meal!