Ambassador Spotlight: Peru's Dental Program

Ana Pierina Gonzalez is our current Ambassador on site at Project Huancayo. Ana is a Temple University undergraduate student and aspires to be a dentist. She has taken her passion for helping others and combined it with her interest in the dental field to create a dental program focusing on the local children on Huancayo. She will be sharing weekly updates with us about her progress working in the community, enjoy!

The goal of this project is to improve oral health among early elementary school children with the support of their tutors and the health staff at local orphanages. Throughout the months of July and August, we will accomplish this goal by teaching children healthy dental habits and by giving them the necessary tools to maintain these new habits for the rest of their lives. During this time period, we are educating expectant mothers about how their dietary choices affect the future oral health of their developing children.

This project grew out of the existing FIMRC Dental Campaign in Sapallanga, Junin. That project revealed that children had 90% plaque build-up on their teeth. This figure suggests a lack of knowledge among children about oral health and poor dental hygiene.

So far, we have successfully collected plaque tests from 50 children at the San Juan Diego and Aldea Infantil El Rosario orphanages and given four presentations on oral healthcare, brushing techniques, and healthy eating habits. The children are always eager to participate in the presentation and always ask questions at the end of the session. Games are always fun and a great way to test what they have learned from each presentation and to get them involved in learning the material.

In addition to the tests and presentations, we have bimonthly meetings with the tutors and health staff at each orphanage to get them involved in the oral health of their children. We teach them about the oral hygiene practices their children should engage in and ask them to track changes/improvements in the oral health of their children. We also have bimonthly assessments and weekly reports from parents and guardians about dental knowledge and oral hygiene practices of their children.

I have also been deeply involved with a health clinic at Cajas, Junin. Cajas is a 30-minute drive from Huancayo. Shadowing at Cajas Health Clinic has been one of the greatest experiences of my internship. Dr. Deisy Vilca and Noemi Melendres have given me a tremendous amount of support and have been terrific mentors. They have helped me throughout the way with tips, advice, recommendations, and support to start and run this project and to help me pursue my goal of going to dental school.

Next week, we will start with the presentations at Cajas Health Clinic for expectant mothers on how food choices and breastfeeding affect the future oral health of their children. Stay tuned for next week’s update on the progress of this project!