OTC dental students are getting an intense lesson in providing patient care this week as they treat hundreds of poor villagers in a small Nicaraguan village.
Six dental students and four dental program alumni, along with several faculty members and other supporters are in Nicaragua this week as part of dental mission trip organized by Rebecca Caceras, OTCs dental hygiene program director.
The students and support staff are expected to treat 500 residents who live in a rural area of the country and who either don’t have access to dental treatment or can’t afford it. The residents will not be charged for the services.
“Dental care is not a high priority for those living there. They don’t have the money. It’s more about buying beans and rice to eat. Healthcare is a low priority,” Caceras said.
The group will bring two Nicaraguan dentists and one physician on the trip to assist with some of the care given. The group expects to treat about 100 a day for five days before returning home this weekend.
Caceras is familiar with the plight of the people in the area the group will visit. She did missionary work there for four years before joining the OTC staff and met her husband, Jose, there where he worked as a dentist.
All of those going on the trip are paying their own way with money raised through donations and fundraisers.
“The students will receive some cultural awareness and a better understanding of providing dental care and health care in a new environment. It will be triage dentistry in someone’s home. We will also work in churches and community buildings,” she said.
Two dental hygiene students who are going on the trip said they were looking forward to the trip that will take them out of the country for the first time.
“It’s my first dental mission and I think it will be a great learning experience seeing 500 people as well as my first time out of the country,” said Emily Swyder, a first year student.
Tiffany Smith said shes always wanted to take a mission trip.
“I know I will learn a lot in addition to providing dental help to a lot of people who dont have an opportunity to get it on a regular basis,” she said.
Steve Koehler is coordinator of media relations for Ozarks Technical Community College.
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