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Dental Mission Trip in Barron, Mexico

​Beyond the academic walls of the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine (CUSDM), alumni as well as current and past faculty, continue to fulfill the CUSDM’s commitment​ to healthier lives for all by integrating dental care to improve health for our local and global communities. For the last five years, former faculty members, Jeffery Astroth, DDS and Deborah Astroth, RDH, BS as well as CUSDM alumni Galen Detrik-Hardenberger, DDS, Davina Detrik, DDS, Jill Rodriguez, RDH, BS and Yanira Owens RDH, MHA, CUSDM Faculty – along with a dedicated team of dentists, dental hygienists and local volunteers – provide oral health care for the school-aged children of Barron, Mexico. 

Barron is like many small, rural villages in Mexico. Social determinants for this community include low-income, lack of access to healthcare, non-potable water and poor infrastructure. There are a few miniscule bodegas in Barron that offer soda and sugar-filled junk food. 

In 2013 Claire Silk, a Colorado dental hygienist and member of the non-profit group Friends of Barron (FOB), noticed the poor state of oral health in many of the children while on a visit to the elementary school in Barron. Claire contacted her good friend and dental hygienist, Deborah Astroth, and the Barron Dental Mission Trip was born. 

Each annual dental mission trip takes place at the elementary school. The dental team and local volunteers turn one of the classrooms in to a make-shift dental clinic for one week. The first year was rough to say the least. Rampant caries, terrified kids, skeptical parents, numerous extractions and lots of patient/parent education. As the years progressed, caries rates have declined, brushing and flossing has remarkably improved and mutual respect and trust has been established. In subsequent years, the people of Barron welcome the dental team with open arms. The use of silver nitrate, sealants, fluoride varnish, an oral hygiene instruction station, and discussions about decreasing sugar intake have had a favorable impact on the oral health of the children of Barron. 

While justification for school absences is not well documented, there is anecdotal evidence that suggests school absenteeism due to toothaches has decreased. The principal of the elementary school, Jesus Alberto Gonzalez, has made a request for our dental team to take our clinic/mission concept to the Mexican Ministry of Health in hopes to duplicate the model for dental public health intervention, led by Mexico’s native dentists.  

Recently, Claire and Kris McGuire (FOB member) have incorporated a biannual fluoride and oral hygiene reinforcement clinics at the school to keep the kids motivated regarding their oral health.  In an attempt to provide integrated healthcare for this small community, nursing students from the city of Mazatlan participate in the biannual clinics. 

With good teamwork, effective leadership, a respect for cultural differences and a commitment from all parties, extraordinary outcomes happen.

For more information about the Barron Dental Mission Trip, please contact Yanira Owens​.

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