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Volunteers brighten smiles in Philippines

Retired dentist Ken Stones (left) examines a young patient.  - Contributed photo
Retired dentist Ken Stones (left) examines a young patient.
— image credit: Contributed photo

The smiles of 745 children and adults who call the Philippine island of Siquijor home are a little brighter these days, thanks to recent efforts of a group of local dentists, dental assistants and other volunteers.

The Semiahmoo Dental Outreach team – including two fourth-year nursing students who signed on at the last minute – spent about a week on the island running dental clinics, where they did their best to address and counteract the effects of a high-sugar diet on the residents.

Set up in an elementary school, the crew saw mostly children – about 650 of them. And while the teeth of some were in good shape, a healthy smile was a rare find, retired dentist and trip organizer Ken Stones said.

“Unfortunately, they were in the minority,” Stones said. “They seem to just accept that that’s part of life, without really knowing they can do anything about it.”

Stones organized the trip after a visit to the area last March, where he saw children as young as three with teeth that were “just decayed off of the gum.”

Stones was joined by dentists Les Ennis, Murray Bohn, Grant Rawston and Bob Symonds, as well as two hygienists and two certified dental assistants. The nursing students added an educational component to the trip, speaking to parent and teacher groups on dental-decay prevention.

Stones – who has been on about 15 such trips – said there is no question the team will be returning to Siquijor. In fact, plans are already underway to run a clinic there in November.

“The advantage of going back means we can build on what we’ve put in place,” he said.

He is thankful to the Semiahmoo Rotary Club, the Chillilwack/Fraser Rotary Club and the International College of Dentists for “substantial” contributions that helped make the clinic possible.

Team members – more than a month after the clinic – are still feeling the thrill of having made a difference, Stones said.

“I don’t know how things could’ve gone better,” he said.

“It was over-the-top good – just absolutely incredible.”

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