Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Dental Health in Chaquijyá

I am in the middle of my third week at the Manna site in Sololá. I have spent the past week and a half serving in Chaquijyá, a 30-minute trip from Sololá in the microbus. Lucy and I have been teaching lessons on oral health to the students of Central, one of the two primary schools in Chaquijyá. My Spanish abilities are limited to say the least, and I have no previous experience in teaching, so it is safe to say my experiences thus far have pushed me far outside of my comfort zone. I am so appreciative of the sweet schoolchildren and teachers that accept my broken sentences and are so receptive to our lessons.

My research project focuses on the current state of dental hygiene among schoolchildren in Chaquijyá, so I was very excited about the opportunity to teach classes on a related topic. During my brief time here it has become evident that the currently poor state of oral health is a health concern on many people’s minds. When Ginny Savage, one of the supervisors at the Manna site, asked the directors of the Chaquijyá schools what services they would like to see Manna provide, one director requested the distribution of toothbrushes to all of the schoolchildren. Upon interacting with the schoolchildren, I immediately noticed the poor condition of their teeth– beyond the significant discoloration of their teeth, many children have numerous teeth that exhibit visible decay.

To my surprise, the children of the classes we have taught already know a significant amount about proper dental hygiene practices – most are familiar with the generally accepted practice of brushing teeth twice a day (morning and night) with a toothbrush and toothpaste. Given more time, it would be interesting to investigate why, if not due to a lack of knowledge, poor oral health is the norm among children in the Chaquiya community. Is it primarily due to a lack of resources (toothbrushes, toothpaste, access to dental care), excessive sugar consumption, or some combination of the two?

I truly hope that, even though our time here is very short, the classes we teach will make a positive and lasting impact on the dental hygiene practices of some of the students and the teachers.

Dental Health Class with the 2nd graders

- Becca, Visage Student

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