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News | Sept. 21, 2017

Joint mission provides smiles for the youngest

By Maria Pinel Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

A team comprised of U.S. Army dentists from the Joint Task Force-Bravo Medical Element and the U.S. Army Dental Command participated in a dental pediatric mission, providing different services for more than 200 children from the Ronaldo Roll School in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, September 4-14.

The joint mission was also supported by the Honduran ministry of Health and armed forces as well as the Catholic University in Tegucigalpa who allowed the use of their facilities for the mission.  

The armed forces assisted in providing security for the team and also provided transportation for the children, bringing them from the school to the university dental hospital while Dr. Marcela Urrutia, Honduran Ministry of Health representative, provided screenings and follow up after the mission.

“The Ministry of Health participates through the Healthy Schools program by selecting schools that require support in the community. We provide free evaluations every year and from this we select the most critical cases to come to this brigade,” said Dr. Urrutia.

During the eight clinical days, the doctors saw an average of 28 children a day providing a huge benefit to the host nation while also training for future situations.

 “This specialty medical mission is part of the U.S. Southern Command’s humanitarian assistance program,” said Dr. Wilmer Amador, JTF-Bravo dental liaison. “This represents a very important training platform for our personnel because they would work in similar conditions if they were in a combat zone.”

The mission includes a deployment, logistical planning, transportation and other training elements relevant to a military mission.

“The first time I came here in 2014 was a very humbling experience for all of us and a great training for all the soldiers,” said Colonel (Dr.) Eliot Bermudez, DENCOM periodontist and officer in charge for this mission. “We are able to do deployment training while supporting humanitarian missions. We are happy to get patients every day. We have great support from MEDEL and we appreciate the fact that we can work together.”

Services provided included a preventive dental care class, cleaning, fluoride applications, restorative amalgams, extractions and crowns. 

“We see a lot of kids with rampant cavities, we have done quite a bit of treatment using fillings and extractions, cleaning and applying fluoride, as well as giving them oral hygiene instructions so they can keep up with the care of their teeth on a long term basis,” said Major Sheha Innes, Public Health Dentist with JTF-Bravo. “It is very rewarding because the kids definitely are crying during the process but when they leave, they leave with a smile that is taken care off.”

The school children received 1,200 dental procedures, alleviating their condition and providing invaluable support to the parents and the local ministry of health who have limited resources for the complicated dental work practiced on the children.

 “We have done more than a thousand procedures so far so it’s going as solid as the first time I was here. We do the best we can with our limitations and I hope the Army keeps supporting this mission to help the Honduran children,” said Bermudez.