Our experience in Mexico providing dental hygiene services to the local residents has been a journey to say the least.I knew that I was signing up for an opportunity that was out of the ordinary which will test my adaptability, cultural competence, clinical skills and, as Ada reminded us all, our flexibility.Needless to say, this opportunity definitely challenged me both personally and professionally.
Ada forewarned us of the meaning of “Mexico time”, and that although it sounds nice, it took some adjustment to accept and go with the flow of Mexico. My days in Victoria revolves around knowing exactly what time it is at all times and the idea of "time" has been, and continues to be, a personal challenge for me – especially since not everyone seems to adhere to the concept as I know it.
Professionally, this experience has challenged me to stay focused regardless of the working conditions.Poor lighting, scratched mirrors, mis-shapened instruments, less than ideal ergonomics and of course the language barrier are just a few of the hurdles that our team has faced.The most challenging and frustrating part, however, is coming to terms with the fact that I can’t do more for the people that I am seeing and that we have to turn people away because our clinic days are booked solid.It’s hard to see such a caring and cohesive group of people suffer from a lack of resources.
For instance, the other day I screened a young 14 year old girl whose lower 6-year molars had been completely "bombed out" with decay and both pulps were exposed.She didn’t complain of any pain, but as a high school student she was concerned about the large cavities between her top two central teeth that were clearly evident when she smiled.I helped her understand how cavities developed and how she could prevent them and showed her how to effectively remove plaque from her teeth. I also gave her a fluoride varnish treatment to help make her remaining teeth more resistant to decay Her needs were definitely beyond my scope of practice, but hopefully the knowledge that I shared with her gave her the foundation to make positive behavioural changes for a healthy future.