Beyond the clinic and into the jungle – An oral health mission for the less privileged in Nicaragua

Nicaragua, the largest country in Central America is home to around 6.5 million people, with nearly half of those people living in rural communities – the jungle. For many, physical access in and out of the jungle is not possible and with a system that does not cater abundantly to dentistry and oral health, many people are suffering from dental disease.

Hello, I’m Teddie a dental professional from the UK who decided to visit Nicaragua to work with an organisation called MAYSEA who support people living in rural communities.

I left on the 12th of May 2021, and although I was supposed to return on the 11th of June, I am still here in Nicaragua, continuing impact work in a variety of communities, including indigenous tribes. I continue to research, explore and learn from the people here as I support them in oral health prevention and I hope to educate others on the diverse conditions and systems that other countries hold.

During my time here, I have experienced and learned many methods and practices, and seen first-hand that dental decay is a prevalent disease here and rampant in every child I have met. As dental professionals, we are fully aware of the factors involved with such disease, yet dental education here is near non-existent. With almost half of the population living in rural communities, with very little financial recourse and no access to the towns and cities, many are suffering from the pain of dental disease and many children are not able to eat due to the abscesses they are living with. Heart breaking it is, to say the least.

The hospital is for many, the only access to dental treatment as all clinics are privately run and the people do not have the financial recourses. By the time people access dental care in the hospital, it is often an urgent situation, and the only treatment being provided is that of extraction.

It is very common to see men and women with gold or silver restorations on their anterior teeth and I have been told many times that dentists are offering this treatment as an alternative for people who cannot afford composite flings. Unfortunately, education on prevention is a lacking entity as the culture is very much based on urgent care treatment and in the dental universities very little prevention education is being given to the students. Therefore, it is clear to see that there are many lacking avenues when it comes to providing prevention to the people.

Sugar is a huge factor and a luxury to the people. I have experienced myself, consumption of drinks such as oat milk, that have had copious amounts of sugar added and it is added to almost everything that is consumed, with many children being given coffee with sugar at a very early age.

As I continue my dental mission here in Nicaragua, I realise that prevention is not a requirement, it is an urgent need as it is the only option for these people to experience health and not that of pain, suffering, and loss of teeth at such an early age. However, it is not only one factor or system that has to change to enable that. Yet one thought of mine remains, Prevention is the priority, and Prevention must be profound.

If you would like to follow my dental adventures in Nicaragua then please come and be my friend over on Instagram: theodora_little.