From humanitarian dentist to dental missionary

Dr. Richard L. Call of Westminster, Colo., explains the purpose of the Hirsche Smiles Foundation dental trips to Guatemala. In this beautiful video of the people, the area and the service, Call explains that group members are doing as Peter and John did as recorded in See Acts 3:7: “We are stretching forth our hands, and we are lifting the people up.”

A 5-year-old Guatemalan girl told Dr. Richard L. Call, a dentist from Westminster, Colo., in a temporary dental clinic in Guatemala,” I just want to eat my food and not have it hurt. Can you help me?” Call said, “When I looked inside her mouth, I found 12 abscessed teeth. The rest all had cavities. Broke my heart.”

This little girl would have suffered throughout her life without help. Her nutrition and over-all health would have been affected. I’m glad to say humanitarian dentists and the Hirsche Smiles Foundation came to her aid.

Many thanks to Call and his wife, LeeAnn Call, Dr. Garry Brown and his wife, Ann Brown (from Utah), Dr. Lee Olson and his wife, Peggy Olson, (formerly from Broomfield, but now from Utah). Many thanks, too, to Dr. Wayne Tomkinson and his wife, Suzanne Tomkinson (from Arizona), and Dr. Paul Fillmore and JoAnne Fillmore, (currently full-time dental missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Peggy Olson took pictures that are available in an album here.

In the area around San Andreas in the Districto de Solola, they provided 347 clinical services to 194 residents in May. No doubt addressing pain and infection was the first priority. Important, too, was preventive care and education to prevent disease and restorative care to prevent tooth loss.

Call said, “The good that we can achieve by getting involved is immeasurable.” He added, “Let me give an example of ‘immeasurable.’”

Call shared the story of Kimberly, a slender 13-year-old Guatemalan girl with shiny, black hair and clear, brown eyes. She smiled tentatively with a protective hand raised to her mouth. She needed extensive work done, which would have been beyond the scope of the temporary clinic. However, Tomkinson had brought his endodontic supplies on the 10-day trip, Computech in Colorado had donated an imaging program and sensor, and the Hirsche Smiles Foundation had provided a Nomad portable radiographic equipment.

The dentists worked on Kimberly for two days. The first day, Call extracted nonrepairable teeth in the back of her mouth and fixed others. The second day, Tomkinson performed three root canals, and Olson restored six front teeth with composite.

Kimberly’s mother cried tears of joy at the results. Kimberly began to raise her hand to cover her mouth after being given a mirror. Then, her eyes widened at seeing her near-perfect smile. The dentists watched as she lowered her hand. They thought of changes her improved appearance could mean for her and felt deeply and emotionally rewarded.

In a few days, the Calls will leave on a mission for 18 months for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as Area Dental Advisors to Central America based in Guatemala City. Among their responsibilities will be to provide clinical dental care for a couple of orphanages in that city. They will also provide dental education and care for young men and women preparing to go on missions for the church from Central America and care for missionaries serving in the Central America Area.

And though their role will be different, the Calls will have their hands in humanitarian dentistry. They will be in the country and can assist the Hirsche Smiles Foundations trips but also coordinate volunteer dentists coming to the clinic through the Academy of LDS Dentists. He will also serve as a visiting professor at a local dental school.

I wish them great success in all their endeavors.

Dr. Richard Call and LeeAnn Call doing dental work in the Tio Juan Clinic

                                                                                                            Photo courtesy of Peggy Olson
Dr. Richard L. Call and LeeAnn Call from Westminster, Colo., perform a procedure during the Hirsche Smiles Foundation trip in May in the Tio Juan Clinic, a full-service dental clinic in Guatemala City. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints partially funds the clinic.

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