Wagga Green Apple dentist and owner Caroline Dalleh is heading to Guatemala on a mercy mission as part of a world effort to address the country’s appalling rate of tooth decay.
“Sadly it has one of the highest rates of dental decay in the world, with tooth decay in children over 90 per cent,” Dr Dalleh said.
“They don’t have good water, it’s not fluoridated, and you can’t drink from the tap as it’s not always safe.
“It’s cheaper to drink Coke than drink bottled water over there, so it’s not surprising a large percentage of the population is having major dental issues.”
Dr Dalleh’s previous trips to help the disadvantaged with dental care have taken her to aboriginal communities, as well as being part of the Royal Flying Dentist, but this will be her first trip overseas.
Happily, the biggest problem; language, won’t be a problem.
“I can speak Spanish as my mother is from Ecuador in South America, and Guatemala is in Central America,” Dr Dalleh said.
“I’m going with a group of mostly Americans and Canadians that don’t speak Spanish so I will be able to help translate, too.”
Last week, Guatemala was rocked by the most powerful earthquake to hit neighbouring Mexico in a century, measuring 8.2 on the Richter Scale.
At least 61 people have been killed in Mexico, and several in Guatemala, but Dr Dalleh has been told she should be safe.
“It has a lot of earthquakes over there, but I’m told it’s all good,” she said.
Based in a town called Xela, Dr Dalleh will be bussed out to smaller villages over the two-week mercy trip, loaded with as many toothbrushes and toothpaste packs she can carry.
“I’ve been told that there are people just lining up to see us, and it’s going to be pretty basic, like they will be sitting in a normal chair, and I will have a caving light on my head,” Dr Dalleh said.
“We will have access to power from a generator and they have transportable sterilisation machines, but it’s going to be pretty exciting.
“There’s going be electricity and I’ve been told I need to bring lots of duct tape to tape all the cords down.
“I have to bring my own gloves, my own masks, my own gowns.
“I’m taking lots of kids clothing, lots of toothpaste and brushes and lots of plastic cups so they can rinse their mouths.”
Dr Dalleh flies out on Saturday and says she wants to leave as much as she can with those who need it the most.
“These poor people have nothing at all, so anything we can give them will help,” Dr Dalleh said.
“I have no idea what it will be like, but I’m really looking forward to it.”