Dr. Savannah Reynolds, Aspen Dental practice owner in Greenville, provided dental care and oral health education to local school children of Antigua. Photo provided.

What many people consider to be a drudgery, the children of Antigua, Guatemala, see as a gift — dental procedures.

Dentists, dental hygienists, and assistants from Aspen Dental-branded practices in the U.S. recently worked alongside the Global Dental Relief organization to provide free dental care to 882 children there. 

Dr. Savannah Reynolds, who has owned an Aspen Dental practice in Greenville for three years, was among the eight dentists who made up the Aspen Dental “Smiles for Guatemala” team. The team traveled to Antigua last month for an eight-day trip, with five days being clinic days.

“From the volunteers that I worked with to the Guatemalan adults and children that I came into contact with, we truly created some amazing memories, and I was especially impressed with everyone’s positive attitudes,” Reynolds says. “I realized that I have more to be thankful for than I ever could have imagined.”

Growing up in a low-income area of rural West Virginia, Reynolds saw people suffering and always wanted to help those around her. “I thought it would be really cool to give back one day, especially because I knew I was going to be a doctor,” she says. “I just never had the funds to do it.”

After researching Aspen Dental’s mission trips, Reynolds applied and was selected for the Guatemala team. Working primarily on adults at her practice, she was a bit nervous to provide dental care to children ages 3 to 18 during the trip.

As the trip approached, her nervousness turned into excitement. “It was just way more of an experience than I ever dreamed it could be,” she says. “You can imagine these kids that I’m worried about hurting them, and really they’re crying because they’re happy they’re going to be out of pain. They would hug you after.”

Providing free dental education, cleanings, fillings, and extractions, the team’s goal was to relieve pain, preserve permanent teeth, and extract any abscessed teeth. “Here in the U.S., you inject someone with an abscess, they’re screaming and ready to hit you. Over there, they’re hugging you and thanking you,” Reynolds says.

Loving her career in general dentistry and growing from her Guatemalan experience, Reynolds will continue to change her patients’ lives through dental care.

“You come back and you realize what things matter in life,” she says. “It was crazy how much we were impacting each other when I thought we were just impacting them.”

The impact

Totaling a value of $195,230:

  • 882 patients served
  • 625 exams
  • 126 cleanings
  • 488 fluoride treatments
  • 566 fillings
  • 30 composites 
  • 195 extractions 
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