0

Humanitarian opportunity may open door to more mission trips overseas

The “Smiles for Central America” dental “office” was set up in a school gym, allowing the more than 40 dental volunteers the space to provide everything from teeth cleaning to specialized dental care for the 660 Latter-day Saint missionaries who took advantage of the free service.

photo courtesy of Dr. Justin Heiden
The “Smiles for Central America” dental “office” was set up in a school gym, allowing the more than 40 dental volunteers the space to provide everything from teeth cleaning to specialized dental care for the 660 Latter-day Saint missionaries who took advantage of the free service.

photo

Dr. Justin Heiden of Sunnyside and his son Nate examine the teeth of a patient during a recent trip to San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The pair were in the Central American country this past Thanksgiving holiday on a humanitarian mission to provide dental health care to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints missionaries.

A recent opportunity to provide free dental care to Latter-day Saint missionaries preparing for their two-year mission has led Sunnyside dentist Dr. Justin Heiden to consider making more such trips to third world countries.

His trip to the city of San Pedro Sula, Honduras over the recent Thanksgiving holiday was an eye-opener, said Heiden.

The Heiden Family Dental owner said he had been looking for a health-related mission to undertake when he found a website seeking dentists interested in traveling on a mission to Central America.

Once in San Pedro Sula, Heiden joined dental and medical teams from around the United States committed to the “Smiles for Central America” program.

Heiden said the mission is to provide dental and medical health care to young men and women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints preparing to go out on their two-year missions.

“We provided oral surgeries, preventative care, root canals and all types of orthodontic care,” Heiden explained.

“We took our own supplies, but dental examination chairs were provided.

“I also took my oldest son, Nate, along to be my assistant,” Heiden said.

Heiden and the other volunteers started seeing patients at 8 a.m. each morning and would finish after 10 p.m. each evening.

Most of the 660 “clients” were age 17 to 22 and were getting “healthy” before heading out on their missions.

Heiden said he learned about the Smiles for Central America program from his brother-in-law and a friend who had participated in similar humanitarian service projects.

“It made me very aware of the needs of people everywhere for proper dental health care,” he explained.

In addition to working long hours in the dental setting, Heiden and his fellow dentists were allowed time to visit a near-by children’s cancer hospital.

“It just made you want to help and offer hope to the children who were there undergoing chemotherapy,” he said.

Heiden’s November trip to San Pedro Sula was just the first of what he says will become a series of more trips to engage in humanitarian service projects.

He said serving the young men and women in the Central American country was addictive.

“They were very humble and so thankful for the service we were providing,” Heiden said.

The Sunnyside dentist said he is already planning to return in November 2015.

“Next time I hope to take along my wife, Joanna,” he added.

Comments

Comments are subject to moderator review and may not appear immediately on the site.

Please read our commenting policy before posting.

Any comment violating the site's commenting guidelines will be removed and the user could be banned from the site.

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment