Dr. Wahl Helps the Children of Manta, Ecuador

Michael Wahl 2013Dr. Wahl of Alameda Pediatric Dentistry recently embarked on a 7-day dental mission to help the underserved population in Manta, Ecuador. In Manta, there aren’t many dentists, and paying for treatment can be expensive.

“Children see adults with missing or broken teeth and think that is the norm,” says Dr. Wahl.

While the mission with his alma mater, NYU College of Dentistry, was to help both adults and children, school-aged kids who regularly snack on high-sugar foods like candy and fruit drinks were the focus. Traveling as a faculty member, Dr. Wahl worked with the dental students and residents, teaching them techniques and skills to treat young patients.

The Reward of Giving
“The most rewarding aspect was realizing how many kids we were helping and seeing the appreciation on their faces,” says Dr. Wahl. “These children would have otherwise not seen a dentist until they were in unbearable pain.”

With assistance from Henry Schein, the team set up shop in two empty classrooms at a local K-8 school, where they spent five days treating 360 children under less-than-ideal conditions:

“Adults sat in chairs and leaned back on bags that served as makeshift pillows, and the work was performed while the dentist was standing. The same went for the endodontics and oral surgery teams. For pediatrics, we had the kids laying down on bench chairs into our laps, performing all the work like a knee-to-knee exam.”

Long-Term Benefits

DSC01127Approximately 50 fillings, 50 crowns, over 200 sealants, and over 100 extractions were administered to the school-aged population during this last mission. After three trips by NYU to the site, the long-term benefits of dental care are beginning to show.

“According to the people doing research for this project,” Dr. Wahl says, “there was a small reduction in cavity rates, but it was still rampant in the older children. Younger children had been benefiting more from our oral hygiene instructions and the silver diamine fluoride that helps stop cavities.”

Beyond the Language Barrier

DSC01335Since Dr. Wahl does not speak Spanish, he was completely reliant on others to translate everything for him, including behavior management to the kid with whom he could not communicate.

In return, the kids did not leave their gratitude unspoken.

“When you treated the children who were in pain, then you saw a relief of pain and they came back to say ‘thank you, very much’ in English, that was so special since most spoke no English. That they went out of their way to learn and say thank you was priceless.”

Read about other humanitarian efforts by the Alameda Pediatric Dentistry staff:
Success in Jamaica
Dentistry Team Makes a Difference in the Philippines
Give Kids a Smile Day


  1. I really appreciate your efforts for providing such kind of dental services for kids and teens.

Speak Your Mind