Dentistry Student Helps Provide Care to Cambodian KIDS

By Malcolm Maurice, Health Sciences

WASHINGTON (April 3) - There are children across the globe that have never had the proper dental care many Americans take for granted.  They have never sat in a dentist's chair, never had a checkup.  Some have never seen a toothbrush.

Kids International Dental Services (KIDS) is changing that. The organization, headed by Dr. Robert P. Renner, provides free dental care to thousands of impoverished children annually in the developing countries of Cambodia, Guatemala and the Philippines.

Jennifer Biron, a third-year student in the Howard University College of Dentistry student, last monbth returned from a trip to Cambodia with KIDS where she helped provide ntal treatment to hundreds of Cambodian children desperately in need of dental care.

Biron, the only dental student on her team, worked for 10 days in Cambodia, where the group treated 1,046 children from ages 4 to 17.

"I learned to manage a significant amount of patients," Biron said."A lot of the kids we saw had never seen a toothbrush before, and a lot of the work that we all take for granted in the United States, they don't even have access to."

The KIDS staff, who come from all over the world, made an impression on Biron.

"The people in charge of the KIDS program are just great, big-hearted people," she said. "They fight for these children.

They care for them. It's almost like they treat them as their own. Their dedication is so strong."

The KIDS program operates from February to March each year and treats about 3,000 children. Biron said her team provided basic dental care.

"Every child received a fluoride treatment," she said."Every child also received basic education on how to brush their teeth, and every child left with a toothbrush."

Biron said she utilized everything Howard taught her.

"Some of the main things Howard taught me were empathy, compassion, critical thinking, how to think on the spot and adapt to the situation," she said, "and that's what a lot of this was."

The main challenge for Biron and her team was the language barrier. The presence of translators helped the treatments go smoothly, she said. Biron's trip gave her a greater appreciation for everything she has, including her skills as a dentist.

"I think it's very important that we use this skill not for only people that we treat in the United States, but we need to realize that we have a skill that can help a lot of people that don't have access to care," she said. "It's so great to see people helping out, such a diverse group of people coming together for that common cause of helping humankind."

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