On the Road Again — The Harris Family Travels to Guatemala on A Dental Mission

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On the Road Again — The Harris Family Travels to Guatemala on A Dental Mission

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In 2012, Dr. Brian Harris and his wife, Maury, traveled to the Dominican Republic. Instead of sightseeing and relaxing, the couple shared 10 long-hour days and expertise with people who had little to no access to dental care.  Several entities made the trip possible. The dental mission trip was sponsored by the Smiles for Life Foundation and the Crown Council.  “That was a life-changing trip,” said Dr. Harris. The experience was so life changing that Dr. Brian and Maury decided to take the two of their children, Connor, who was 12, and Cash who was 11, on the next trip in 2015. 

Dr. Harris recalls that the boys’ work was play. “They had such a great time. While I did dentistry, their job was to play with the kids and look for ways to serve them. They made bracelets and played, bringing happiness and laughter to the little ones while the parents were getting their dental care.” Many patients had walked miles away to the site.

Dr. Harris returned from the family’s third and most recent trip, this time to Guatemala, in March 2018; he was accompanied by his wife, two older sons, and daughters, Posey, 9 years old, and Lou, who is 6. The village was a 9-hour bus ride from the airport in Guatemala City. Choice Humanitarian had built a hospital and Dr. Roy Hammond donated materials for the dental clinic in the mountainous region, to offer medical and dental space to the 30-person team. The boys, now 14 and 13 years old, had matured enough to assist their father with bringing supplies and instruments, while his wife and the girls talked to the women about health and hygiene matters. While Dr. Harris gave out dental care supplies, the women received hygiene kits that would service them well after the doctors returned to the U.S.

Providing dental care in such a rural setting was challenging — without computers or x-rays. So Dr. Harris did mostly extractions and fillings. “We brought along whatever we could that would help us treat the people,” said Dr. Harris. He brought along Harmonize™ from Kerr Dental, a next generation universal composite that results in restorations with better polymerization, more integration with resin, strength, and durability. OptiBond™ Solo Plus single component total-etch dental adhesive was also in his suitcase for the highest level of protection against microleakage, and high bond strengths to a variety of surfaces.

Two sets of KaVo air-driven handpieces, both high and slow speed, also came along for the ride. Dr. Harris described, “You don’t realize how important a handpiece is until you are running off a portable unit that plugs into the wall. I took the KaVo handpieces because I needed equipment that was efficient and reliable. I didn’t have the luxury of lubricating the handpiece and doing all the proper care that is expected in America. 

Although many Guatemalan adults and some children were treated over those 10 days, Dr. Harris says that the trip was not really about dentistry. “It’s not about the teeth. It’s about the people, and our team being there to serve them, show them care, and help them get out of pain. I didn’t want to focus on the dental procedures as much as being present with the patient. We showed patients how to take better care of their teeth, brush better.”

Dr. Harris sums up, “Whether we do humanitarian efforts in our own community or in a third world country, it is an amazing experience to give back.  Helping others using our own talents is fun and it keeps our passion alive for dentistry”.

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