ALAMEDA -- Dr. MyLinh Ngo, a dentist at Alameda and Pleasanton Pediatric Dentistry, recently took her skills to Taguig City, Philippines, where five dentists and dozens of volunteers treated more than 1,400 children who otherwise would not have access to dental care.
During one week in April, the dentists performed more than 600 extractions, sealants and removed decayed dentine with hand instrumentation -- a technique called Atraumatic Restorative Treatment (ART) -- all without compressors and other standard dental technology.
Often the dental chair consisted of tables and desks pushed together.
Ngo said that many of the children had never seen a toothbrush before.
"People say that so many kids locally don't have care, so why are we going internationally. But these kids don't have options," Ngo said. "I can bring my skill and help kids in pain that are malnourished because they have rampant decay -- and that's really fulfilling."
This was Ngo's second trip to Taguig City with the Kids International Dental Services (KIDS) volunteer organization.
She took her first trip in 2010, and said that three years later, the benefits of the dental work were already evident.
The original treatments had reduced the number of extractions by 13 percent, and they were able to perform almost twice as many Atraumatic Restorative Treatments.
Bay Area-based KIDS makes a point of returning to the same towns in Guatemala, Philippines and Cambodia each year to provide a consistent source of dental care to kids in need.
Dr. Ignatius Gerodias, who is married to Ngo, cofounded KIDS with Dr. Robert P. Renner.
He believes that KIDS is becoming an important part of the communities it treats, and that the organization is also creating opportunities for young dentists to give back. For recently graduated dental professionals, finding the time and money to volunteer can be tricky, he said.
"When you first start out you have no money, but you have a lot of time," Gerodias said. "Then when you're established, you have a lot of money but no time. We help the youth (dental students) by subsidizing the funds for the trip, so when they start their careers they will set aside time to do volunteer work. We're trying to influence people and get them into it from the beginning,"
KIDS helps dental students and young dentists attend the volunteer trips through a grant-like process, and licensed dentists are paired with younger unlicensed dentists.
Often, one dentist works with two students, which is a much more intimate exchange than a dental school classroom. So far, the tactic has been working. "We're already seeing the results," Gerodias said.
"People from early trips are now coming back to lead the younger dentists ... that was our biggest measuring point of success -- that the young dentists are coming back."