Our first experience within San Pancho’s education system took us to the local Jardin del Nino (Kindergarten) school. Located along the main strip, the school’s perimeter is covered with colourfully vibrant paintings that clearly reflect the social atmosphere of this wonderful little village. We walked into the classroom a little unsure of what to expect with the language barrier, the students’ level of knowledge, how to efficiently screen 47 children and how on earth we were supposed to fit into those little chairs! The teachers and staff warmly welcomed us into their classroom, which didn’t consist of much other than the general basic classroom necessities.
Our interpreter, Indira led the presentation in Spanish on the importance of oral health, while we assisted the children with their toothbrushing technique. The children actively offered answers and asked questions through out the presentation and I was amazed at how respectful and engaged they were. I think I speak for us all when I say that it was pretty surprising to see the condition of some of these children’s mouths and the prevalence of early childhood caries for this age group. I was especially caught off guard when I came across a young girl with an abscessed central incisor where the gingiva has recessed halfway up the tooth’s root – she is 5!
Providing screenings and applying fluoride varnish just doesn’t seem like enough considering the level of attention that some of these children need. Hopefully the impact that we have on their perceptions of oral health is enough to make even a small difference on how they value oral and overall health. Considering the conditions of many of the mouths we assessed today and the general limitations on accessibility to health care resources, spirits are high with an admirable emphasis on family values. This came clear to me when the moms, dressed head to toe in costumes fully equipped with home made musical instruments, came together and surprised the children with a music and dance production after school. Already I have learned a lot from being here and am really looking forward to the days ahead!