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Changing smiles and lives in Santo Domingo

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Posted: July 27, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 27, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Drs. Allen, left, and Kelly, right, Smudde with a patient in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Courtesy photo

It was a week to remember. By the end of it all, 28 dentists and oral surgeons from all over the world had completed 1,550 surgeries on hundreds of underprivileged patients in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Some of the patients had never had dental care before. They came in with infected teeth, afraid, and at the same time eager to finally have the chance to fix what needed to be fixed. To be able to bite and chew properly. To be pain free. To smile without shame, ever again.

“It was truly a blessing to be there,” said Drs. Allen and Kelly Smudde, a husband and wife dental team from Valencia. “We came back with swollen ankles and aching backs, but what an experience! We met a lot of great people. The cases were challenging, which really honed our skills.”

Allen recalls one woman who came in with infections all over her mouth. His team took out all of her infections and probably saved her life.

“It was life-changing,” Allen said. “For her and for us.”

Organized by La Universidad Interamericana, the marathon mission, held from June 6 to June 14, united doctors from Spain, England, Hungary, Iran and all over the United States.

There was no time to sightsee or visit: Right after grabbing a quick breakfast, they’d go straight to work, and work mostly nonstop until night.

“The facilities were basic,” Kelly said. “There wasn’t enough light, and you don’t always get the right equipment. But if you could make it work there, like we all did, you can make it work pretty much anywhere. I can honestly say we came out of this experience as much better dentists and clinicians than we were before.”

What’s even better than being able to help and give back? Knowing that while you’re gone, your team back home is keeping your practice running smoothly and continuing to care for patients with loving hearts.

“Allen and I didn’t have to worry,” Kelly said. “Knowing we can trust our home team and our doctors to take good care of our patients while we are gone is imperative to us. We’re really grateful.”


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