Originally published in ICON Okanagan Winter 2013 Magazine
Have you ever wondered where your doctor or dentist vacations or what it is they decide to do on their travels or in their time off? It may be an odd thought, but that particular question actually opened up an interesting conversation between the team at Okanagan Smiles and us here at Icon.
Having noticed some books on the topic of Haiti and Guyana on the waiting room table upon our last visit we were intrigued and so, naturally, we got to talking with Dr. Visscher. Soon, we discovered that there was much more to this than met the eye.
Doctors Jonathan Visscher and Debra Matson, the dynamic husband and wife dental team at Okanagan Smiles have been involved with mission service for quite a long time, since 1995 in fact, when Dr. Visscher first pulled a tooth in Venezuela and became acutely aware of the fact that dentistry would most definitely be his career choice.
Since then the couple has traveled to more than 20 countries throughout the word with multiple mission organizations and have most recently become involved with a non-profit organization called New Reality International (NRI), even incorporating the Canadian branch of the organization in 2011.
Dedicated to providing physical, emotional and spiritual healing to those suffering from extreme poverty, disease and injustice worldwide, NRI has given booth Dr. Visscher, Dr. Matson as well as a host of other health care professionals a platform to help individuals in third world countries who are dealing with pain and illness due to a simple lack of education and access to basic medications.
Upon arrival at the remote villages they visit, armed with only their suitcases stocked with toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental tools and medication, the team is often met with a crowd of hundreds of individuals who have never had the opportunity to see a dentist or a doctor in their life. Clutching their jaws and visibly in pain, young and old alike point towards where the pain they experience is coming from and one by one teeth are removed to offer some sort of relief.
The first task is to ensure everyone is pain free; the next is to teach everyone how to properly brush and maintain their teeth. “Everyone is in pain. Every mouth has rotten teeth,” says Dr. Visscher. “So it is very important that the children, first and foremost, are all taught proper dental hygiene and personal health care.”
In so doing there has been a marked improvement on the overall health of communities which have been revisited in the past few years. “We’ve seen some really great changes going back to Guyana, for example. Now when we return, we can focus on restorative dental work like fillings,” says Dr. Matson.
Both Dr. Visscher and Dr. Matson are confident that these simple techniques for maintaining hygiene will carry forward throughout the generations and create a better standard of living overall.
Having traveled extensively over the past three years, the team at Okanagan Smiles have been to Guyana multiple times as well as Haiti, Guatemala, Mexico and this past October they expanded into Myanmar which is rated by the World Health Organization as the worst in the world for health care.
Dr. Visscher and Dr. Matson intended to return to Haiti for their next mission where NRI is currently focusing on building an orphanage for countless children in need.
With the selfless contribution of the many healthcare professionals and volunteers involved with NRI the impoverished residents of these communities have quite literally received a new lease on life.
Whether you’re visiting us for cosmetic or general dentistry, we provide a comfortable experience with results that will last. Contact us to book an appointment today!
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