Many Filipinos suffer from dental problems, tooth decay among the most prevalent. Unfortunately, they don’t always have the luxury of brushing and flossing because of time and money. As a result, the problems aggravate close to the point of irreparability.
For this reason the volunteer dentists of the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) offer their services for free to poor families. On October 25, Tzu Chi’s 323rd mobile dental mission once again reaches the constituents of the San Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions Parish Church in Navotas City.
The latest mission benefited 142 Navoteños who cannot afford an appointment with a dentist at a private clinic due to financial constraints. Children currently in their two-week break from school grabbed the chance of having their decayed teeth extracted. It is a good time for them to undergo extraction since they would need to rest for a couple of days to recover.
A total of 49 children ages 10 to 16 benefited from the mission. Two of them are best friends Aira Joy Hinacay and Elaiza Mae Castillo, both Grade-6 students at Kapitbahayan Elementary School. Their tooth decay has been plaguing them for months and hindering them from concentrating on their studies and other activities.
Aira Joy’s grandmother stays at home and looks after her. With her mother as a housewife and step-father who works as a longshoreman in Navotas fish port and earns Php300 a day. A treatment in a private clinic, which costs Php300 to Php450, seems impossible.
“Sometimes we just do not attend our class when we have toothache. Because if we still attend school with our tooth bothering us, we won’t be able to listen to our teacher and won’t learn anything,” shares Aira Joy.
Accompanied by Aira’s grandmother, they bravely underwent the procedure with the hope of healthier and brighter smiles. It is Elaiza’s second time to undergo an extraction by Tzu Chi’s dental mission. The visit of the dentists has been a big blessing for them who cannot afford expensive treatment at a private clinic.
Aira Joy and Elaiza Mae are happy because they can now listen to their teacher’s lectures without their aching tooth interrupting them.
“Thank you so much Tzu Chi Foundation because my aching tooth would be finally removed,” says Elaiza Mae.
Calming agitated children
Aside from being a dentist on a mission, TIMA dentist Dr. Proceso Radovan stood as a friend who comforted his patients who felt nervous even before the procedure started. Since children are mostly afraid of a dental appointment, dentists did their best to relieve their anxiety by telling jokes to put smiles on their faces and educating them the importance of having a regular dental checkup and proper oral hygiene.
“Children are mostly first timers. That’s why we have to pacify them. They even start to shake upon seeing the needle just like one of my patients earlier. We have to entertain and convince them that the procedure is not painful,” says Radovan.
It is a reflection of volunteer dentists not only bringing physical relief but also love and concern for their patients. After the procedure, patients received free medicine and biscuits from Tzu Chi.
Meanwhile, 35 social workers from the local welfare group Lingap facilitated the registration of the residents and checked their blood pressure prior to admission. It is important that for a patient to have normal blood pressure to minimize bleeding and avoid other complications during the extraction.
“Most of them cannot afford a session in a private clinic. Some of them share that they just endure and ignore the pain until this dental mission arrives to treat them. Thank you so much Master Cheng Yen,” says parish priest Hilario Singian, who coordinates Tzu Chi’s missions in the community.
Since 2013, Tzu Chi Foundation has provided medical assistance—including dental—to poor communities surrounding the parish church. The continuous mission of medicine to the needy even warranted the construction of a dedicated clinic within the church grounds in 2016 to better serve the needs of the patients.
Navoteños line up early in the morning to register in the free mobile dental brought by Tzu Chi Foundation at the entrance of San Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions Parish Church in Dagat Dagatan, Navotas City. Volunteers from local social group, Lingap, facilitated it.【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
A Lingap volunteer checks the blood pressure of a dental patient to make sure that she is cleared and ready for the procedure.【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
Tzu Chi volunteers arrange the dental instruments before the dentists start the tooth extraction.【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
A Tzu Chi volunteer and Lingap social worker help each other clean and sanitize the used dental instruments.【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
Aira Joy Hinacay feels relieved after the dentist finally removed her aching tooth.【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) dentist Dr. Proceso Radovan and his patient are all smiles after the tooth extraction procedure. Dr. Radovan had to calm and pacify the young girl through telling funny stories because she feels anxious of the syringe’s needle. 【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
Elaiza Mae Castillo together with her friend’s grandmother, Hilda Belerio, receives her medicine from two Tzu Chi volunteers after her tooth extraction.【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
Dental patients thanks Tzu Chi foundation for bringing the free dental service to them. 【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
A TIMA dentist holds the hand of a nervous child before the procedure starts.【Photo by Luisa Cabato】