Helping Hand

Warren dentist takes time to provide care at volunteer clinic in Guatemala

Dr. Paul Boger and assistant Sarah Bogniak work with a girl at a volunteer dental clinic in Guatemala.

Many approach an appointment with a dentist with dread.

That is not true everywhere.

In some places, dental care is a rare gift and a solution to ongoing pain.

Dr. Paul Boger of Market Street Dental in Warren recently spent four days seeing patients who do not have the same advantages his typical patients do.

For the sixth time in 12 years, Boger volunteered at a clinic serving children in eastern Guatemala.

The clinic is in Izabal — one of 22 departments (like states) in Guatemala. It is the second largest department in area, but only 14th most populous.

“Our clinic is in the eastern part of Guatemala about 20 miles up the Rio Dulce river from the Caribbean where Guatemala has a small bit of coastline between Belize and Honduras,” Boger said. “There is very little care available to the children of the area.”

“Severe pain and infection may occasionally drive some of the people there to seek care if they can raise enough money and manage transport, but they tend to suffer through it,” he said.

When the clinic is open, there is no shortage of patients.

“We normally are able to see 300 to 400 kids in the four days we have the clinic open for care,” Boger said. “Unfortunately our numbers were a bit lower this year because we had no electricity on our last clinic day and we couldn’t offer our full range of care.”

“All of the children who come to our clinic receive an examination,” he said. “From certain villages, we see many children now who need only hygiene care and preventive things like fluoride treatments and placement of sealants.”

Some have more serious needs.

“We also find frequent need for extraction of painful and infected teeth and we repair many teeth with fillings,” Boger said. “We also occasionally will be able to save infected teeth by performing root canal therapy.”

“A very generous donation I received years ago allowed us to get a portable x-ray gun, so we are able to take x-rays when needed,” he said. “It has been an enormous help over the years.”

Boger traveled with his wife, Vivien, daughter, Ailsa, and dental assistant Sarah Bogniak.

“I had an opportunity 12 years ago through an old friend from dental school to go there,” Boger said. “So many aspects of the history and workings of the program really hooked me.”

“Every person with this clinic, including our Guatemalan host organization Asociacion Rescate, is a volunteer,” he said. “It was very inspiring to see and I decided to stay involved as long as I’m able.”

“Six trips in 12 years later, they still need us, so I keep going.”

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