There are 12,000 school-aged children in the Toledo district of Belize - and only one dentist.
To say that Dr. Solomon Enriques has his hands full may be an understatement. But Dr. Charles Ramsey, clinical assistant professor of dental hygiene at the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry, and a handful of dental and hygiene students lent him their services this past May.
Up until this year, a mission trip to provide actual dental treatments to the poorest district of Belize would not have been possible.
Ramsey had approached Ruth McDonald, the deputy prime minister of health for the Toledo district, about bringing dental students to treat the children in her district two years ago. “She was adamant that it would never happen,” he said.
Ramsey said that not even medical missions are allowed in the district due to negative experiences with medical and dental groups in decades past. “This particular district is very cautious about who is allowed in to provide health care,” he said.
Since 2012, Ramsey has organized trips for dental hygiene students to provide hand-washing demonstrations, diet counsel, oral hygiene instructions, fluoride treatments, toothbrushes and toothpaste. But the need for dental procedures is great.
Ramsey was not willing to give up the fight so easily. Through Enriques, he reached out to the senior dental surgeon over the country of Belize, Dr. Raphael Samos. “We began to correspond by email,” Ramsey said.