“Be true to your teeth and they won't be false to you.” ~Soupy Sales
Our teeth are often taken for granted, until there’s an ache, a cavity, or an infection. However, oral care is necessary, no matter the country. The World Health Organization reports that worldwide 60 to 90 percent of school children and almost 100 percent of adults have dental cavities which eat away at the teeth.
San Rafael is a beautiful mountain village in central Honduras. Fed by streams, its primary industry is coffee plantations. The people of San Rafael eat corn, rice and beans; they drink Coke, coffee, or the waters of descending mountain streams.
Good medical and dental care though are distant. Once a year, dentists come to the village to fix what teeth can be saved and educate patients about how to take care of their teeth.
Dr. Andrew Turke, a Palm City dentist, travels to San Rafael yearly to work in his field as a volunteer.
Dr Turke states, “San Rafael has a high rate of dental disease due to lack of dental care and education. Many children have lost their molars, whereas the adults have previously lost their molars and are in the process of losing their front teeth. Complete loss of natural teeth is a real danger; fewer foods can be consumed, leading to nutritional deficiency and bodily disease.”
Andrew Turke DMD is part of a dental mission team from Treasure Coast Community Church, TC3 in Jensen Beach. Traveling with him are fellow dentists: Dr. Jose Sarasola, Dr. Timothy Salib, Dr. Thomas Galinis. The team also includes dental assistant Andrea Turke, three other dental assistants, and dental hygienist Sonta Delabarrera.
In February 2017, the TC3 dental mission team went to San Rafael. Together with a Honduran dental mission team, a temporary dental clinic was set up in a church sanctuary. Using camping headlights over their foreheads, a pressure cooker for sterilization, and church translators—the two teams saw 715 adults. The teams restored holes in front teeth when possible with a resin composite material, pulling teeth, and filling remaining cavities.
During a previous trip in 2015, Dr. Turke’s team saw 320 children, extracting rotted molars, cleaning cavities and placing fillings.
The problem in San Rafael is three-fold.
First, there are no wells nor a treatment plant for clean water. Residents get sick from drinking mountain stream water from a two-foot wide ditch, resulting in sickness—gastro-intestinal problems, bacterial infections and even parasite infestations. Coke is cleaner to drink and is readily available at markets, but it is not good for the teeth.
Second, residents of San Rafael can afford little. They work as laborers on the coffee and sugar plantations beginning at about age 12 or 13. Houses outside the village are constructed from sticks, clay and sheet metal.
Third, no permanent dental clinic is in place.
Dr. Turke has a vision. He would like to fund a permanent dental clinic in San Rafael to provide continuing health care and education. To do this, a piece of property must be purchased and a dentist installed.
Why is this so necessary? When the teeth and gums are unclean, bacteria is invited into the body, setting people up for disease. Disease leads to death. Dr. Turke states that this is on his heart. “These people are good, hardworking people who need my help,” he adds.
Andrew Turke DMD is a native Floridian, born and raised in Plantation. He moved to Jensen Beach in 2009 and is a graduate of Nova Southeastern University. His local practice is Turke Advanced Dental Arts, in Palm City. Dr. Turke relates, “I became a dentist because I enjoy working with my hands on teeth and seeing the smile of a happy patient.” The smiles of those he has helped in San Rafael are priceless.
You can reach Dr. Turke at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 772-919-7444.
© 2017 "Hometown Heroes" Kelly Jadon