Tzu Chi Brings Dental Relief to One of Mexico Earthquake’s Hardest Hit Towns

TIMA  |  January 11, 2019

When a 7.1 magnitude earthquake rattled Central Mexico, it sent shockwaves throughout Mexico City, the capital, and surrounding states including Puebla, Mexico and Morelos.  Within Morelos, the small, modest town of Jojutla was among the hardest hit.

The town’s landmark belltower was destroyed in the quake, along with its local marketplace- one that drove Jojutla’s local economy.  By December, though, residents were still picking themselves up, and for many it would be a financial struggle to seek the proper medical attention and care.

Yet, the Tzu Chi International Medical Association knew that while hosting free medical clinics would help, dental services would be needed, too.  After all, it was Welsh poet George Herbert who once said “music helps not the toothache.”

A Dental Intervention

With a team of volunteer dentists, including local professionals, TIMA travelled to Jojutla to setup and host a free dental clinic.  Services began with a tooth brushing demonstration for those waiting to register and get treatment- an integral part of all TIMA dental clinics.

Prevention is better than curing…every patient that comes in, before they even register, we teach them how to brush their teeth.

While education is a critical, there were already severe problems demonstrated by many in attendance.  One such patient, Santos Garcia Martinez, had both a molar and loose tooth taken out. For her, it was a frightening procedure she knew would ultimately have a positive outcome.

When they said they’d extract it, I was scared...Now, I can eat better.

Many expressed their angst in seeking dental treatment in the quake-stricken town.  Jojutla mom Lilia Martinez Leonardo coaxed her frightened son to get a needed extraction under one condition: if they attended the free dental clinic, she would buy him a gift with some of the money she may have otherwise spent seeing a private dentist.

I explained that it was going to hurt even more if he doesn’t remove it now...It’s very expensive to see a dentist.

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It Feels Good to Do Good

Volunteers in the dental team seemed as grateful as some of the many patients they saw.  In one instance, Dr. Shirley Chen, soothed a patient through an extraction. In fact, it’s this compassionate approach that has become the signature of all our medical efforts.  She teared up sharing her end of it.

She [the patient] was shaking. She was very emotional. I gave her a hug. It’s the best way to show you care.

Patients, too, showed their appreciation in a variety of ways.  For many dental professionals, they are gestures they don’t normally see in their regular offices.

After the treatment, they will give you a hug, they will give you a kiss...that’s very rewarding being a dentist.

Learn more about Tzu Chi’s Mexico Earthquake Relief efforts.  With your help, we can continue to provide quality dental to those in pain.