Free care brings smiles — and hope — to kids
As October wound down, so did one of the busiest times of the year for a west Chandler dentist and his colleagues. Not from the usual rush of patients but for a humanitarian trip that has become an annual ritual for the group.
Dr. R. Kris Putrasahan, along with a couple of other Valley dentists and their families, pack up their cars and drive to a town north of Rocky Point, Mexico, to offer free dental care to about 30 disadvantaged children.
“It’s difficult to describe the joy and satisfaction of being able to help others in need,” says Putrasahan. “Every time we make this trip to Mexico, we come away with a sense that we have been the recipients of tremendous blessings from these children.”
Putrasahan and the other professionals see the young patients, ages 5 to 18, at Esperanza para los Niños (translation: Hope for the Children), a non-profit home for kids whose parents are unable to care for them.
Thanks in part to the dentists’ ongoing visits, the children typically have good oral hygiene. Most receive a free regular check-up and cleaning and, if necessary, sealants.
In the United States, a general dentist’s fee for such procedures would be $275 to $300.
Occasionally, says Putrasahan, a child needs a filling or, rarely, an extraction. More extensive work is referred to local dentists, many of whom offer a reduced fee. The collaborating dentists here also have donated money for some of the treatments they refer out.
Supplies and products for the trips are donated by the dentists’ individual practices, including Putrasahan, who joined the group in 2010; his wife, Maya; and their children Josh and Marisa.
Other dentists, dental hygienists and dental assistants have gone at various times over the years as well. Family members pitch in where needed, helping when there are not enough dental assistants, preparing meals and playing sports and other activities with the children.