Each year I take pictures of my students to solicit support for those children in need. One of the things that has struck me over the years, is how they will avoid smiling for pictures. They are smiling most of the time, but when pictures are taken, they often have difficulty smiling. It took me awhile to realize that this not a cultural thing, but instead that they don’t want to have their teeth show for pictures. The adults as well tend to avoid smiles in which their teeth show. In Nicaragua, dental care is pretty much limited to pulling teeth, and the majority of the adults have lost their front teeth by the age of thirty. When we have activities they smile freely, but when you get out a camera, it is rare that you will get a smile showing their teeth. The majority of young children have rampant cavities, many loosing adult teeth long before they have reached adolescence.
We are in the process of starting a dental clinic here which will give them access to dental care that involves more than just pulling teeth, and the education to help them maintain their teeth through adulthood. I have 4 high school students who have lost their front teeth entirely, and many on the way. In Nicaragua sugar is a calorie source that is readily available and inexpensive. It is an important supplement to their caloric intake. Education will be a huge part of helping turn that around, but that needs to be combined with access to basic dental care. It is our hope to be able to bring more smiles to our villages in Nicaragua, and we hope we can partner with you to do so.