“Clueless.” I Confess!
That’s Me, When Pressed
To Help Reduce, Supress,
Arrest Caries Among the Adolescents
And Kids of Grenada – a Blessed
Country, Whose People Possess
The Drive to Progress.
For Despite the Trauma
and the Stress
Of Having Been Oppressed
Historically, they Re-Invest,
Welcome All as Guests,
Kill with Kindness.
And It’s Their Refusal to Acquiesce,
Their Protest That Impressed
Me. Made Me Say “Yes”
To Help them Recess
A National Abscess.
And Though I Don’t Profess
To Know the Business
Of Saving Teeth From Distress,
I’ll Do My Part to Help Address
Getting Their Address
Oral Health Care Access.
And, No, It Won’t Be Effortless.
And, Yes, I’ll Likely Make a Mess
Moving Pieces in A Game of Chess
Of Sundries, Schools and Hygienists,
Applying Sealants, Fluoride And All the Rest.
But I’ll Give it My Best
‘Cause I’m in Love And Obsessed
With Grenadians’ Social Consciousness:
They Walk, Talk, Dance and Dress
Like They’re Pumping Oil from Coast to Crest.
And So I Say “Yes”.
And If You Say “Yes”.
And We Don’t Second Guess Us. Don’t Refuse This Request.
Stay Steadfast on this Quest.
Express Our Canadian-ness.
Then The Only Outcome Will Be…
Like in 5 Minutes?
Tessa via WhatsApp: “Hey Mikey! Dr. Julie Du Bois told me to invite you to a Zoom meeting.”
Me: “Hey, Tessa! Dr. Du Bois wants me to attend a Zoom meeting?”
Me: “Um. OK. I’m not sure what it’s about or if I can contribute anything. What day? What time?”
Tessa: “Today. 2:30 p.m. Grenada time”
Me [looking at the time]: “Wait? Like in 5 minutes?!”.
On Thursday, November 10, 2022, I put my regular work on hold (I’m a dental lawyer who markets and sells dental practices) to attend a Zoom meeting with Dr. Julie Du Bois (Grenada’s senior dental surgeon and president of the Grenada Dental Association). A meeting I knew very little about – a meeting that would change my life.
Bright Red Sweater
I clicked the Zoom link and there was Dr. Du Bois and 20 other people, most of whom I didn’t recognize (including dentists, hygienists, philanthropists, public relations experts, and public officials from North America and Grenada). And Dr. Du Bois was talking about the desperate need to create a sealant program to reduce caries rates in adult molars for Grenada’s children.
My first thought was, “What’s a sealant program?”
My second thought was, “I’m definitely underdressed for this meeting.” I was wearing a very festive and bright red sweater (not thinking I was meeting with anyone that day!).
But I liked Dr. Du Bois. She and other local Grenadian dentists supported our annual dental / hygiene outreach program there in August 2019 and August 2022.
Let’s Take a Step Back
I help organize big groups of Canadian dentists, dental students, hygienists, and support staff to head down to Grenada, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos (and soon, Sint Maarten) each year to provide free extractions, restorations, root canals, dentures, and, of course, cleanings!
In 2022, for example, our volunteers treated 2,018 patients over 15 clinical days at a 20+ op dental clinic that we set up at Grenada’s National Cricket Stadium.
We make these trips in partnership with the Sandals Foundation (which graciously donates accommodations, meals, drinks, and amenities at their 5-star all-inclusive resorts to our volunteer groups for free), Henry Schein Cares (which generously donates tens of thousands of dollars of sundries), and Great Shape! Inc. (a U.S.-based not-for-profit that sets up large dental clinics and helps run the program on the ground). And we’re constantly upgrading and reinvesting in our equipment (including ultrasonic scalers, digital x-rays, portable dental units and chairs, high and slow speeds, autoclaves, etc.).
What’s a Sealant Program?
OK. Now back to the Zoom call and my bright red sweater. There I was, frozen, not my camera, just me, because I couldn’t say anything without looking like I didn’t know anything (which I didn’t).
I didn’t know how sealants work, their structure, the different types, the steps to apply them, the effect on reducing caries, retention rates, storing conditions, etc.
Nor did I know how to help create or run a sealant program for an entire country (population 125,000!). So, I just sat there and listened.
But then, when the opportunity presented itself to have a small committee of stakeholders come up with an actual written proposal, my hand went straight up. The stakeholders looked puzzled. I even surprised myself. But I really wanted to see those kids at the schools and make a big difference for an entire country.
“Well, I guess I’m doing this now. Better get cracking,” I told myself.
Two weeks later: I wrote a proposal based on ideas I gathered from various stakeholders1 and then submitted it to Dr. Du Bois and the rest of the Seal Grenada team (a public-private partnership).
The proposal involves bringing groups of ~20 Canadian hygienists and 5 supervising dentists to Grenada for one week at a time to stay at Sandals Grenada for free and work with Grenadian health care providers, teachers, and officials to seal the adult molars on 3,000 Grenadian kids that week. And we’d do this three weeks per year for three years.
We’d target certain schools, get parental consent, collect and input data into online patient management software (where we could later run reports), and apply sealants and topical fluoride to adult molars. We’d run school-based clinics twice a year (late August 2023 is our pilot project).
We’d include oral hygiene instruction and education for the students. We’d support the Grenadian government in limiting access to processed / sugary foods in and around schools. And we’d run an extensive public relations campaign in North America and Grenada.
And that’s the program in a nutshell.
There’s Something Special About Grenada
But why Grenada?
Admittedly, this so-called “Isle of Spice” exports some of the world’s best nutmeg, cocoa, cloves, cinnamon, mace, bananas, coconut, and exotic fruit (including my absolute favourite: soursop!). And yes, its scenic landscapes feature picturesque beaches and coloured houses atop lush hills.
But Grenada is much more. It’s an island that has suffered tremendous conflict and trauma over the years – from warring factions of Indigenous peoples, French and British colonization, slavery and emancipation, independence and civil strife, a U.S.-led invasion in 1983 to quell a Marxist-Leninist coup d’état, and even Hurricanes Ivan (2004) and Emily (2005).
But despite this, the character of Grenadians today is exemplary. They are a welcoming and vibrant people. They boast a stable democratic system, a self-reliant and sustainable economy, extremely high literacy rates, relatively low crime, and a reasonable cost of living.
If you haven’t been, you simply must.
We Can Do This
And that’s where YOU COME IN. If you’re a hygienist, a Level II dental assistant, or a dentist and you’d like to come with me and a group of ~30 volunteers (~20 hygienists + 5 supervising dentists + 5 non-dental support staff) on an EPIC adventure to different primary schools over five days this coming August to help place sealants on 3,000 kids, contact me.
The cost: Taking 10 days off and paying for a roundtrip flight to Grenada plus a USD1k project fee to Great Shape! Inc. We’ll stay at the Sandals Grenada for nine nights and work for five days.
The reward? A subsidized work-cation to a beautiful country filled with angelic people. An opportunity to significantly impact an entire country and to make new friends (some for life). To burn calories (we sweat all day and love to dance the night away!). To experience working with a team towards a common purpose. To gift yourself more than you’ll give.
We. Can. Do. This.
P.S. We were lucky enough to have Global News feature the Seal Grenada program in an online article published January 14th (see Saba Aziz, “’Huge Undertaking’: How Canadian dentists, hygienists are helping locals in the Caribbean”, Global News, 14 January 14 2023)
- MANY THANKS TO: Dr. Kosta Abate (GP, Toronto and grad of NYUCD that ran a sealant program for 2.5 years in Grenada), Dr. Julie Du Bois (GP, Grenada and President of the Grenada Dental Association), Dr. Brian Holmes (GP, Oregon who runs a sealant program in Grenada), Dr. Sanjukta Mohanta (GP public health, Brampton and know-it-all), Balbir Sohi (mobile hygienist, entrepreneur, philanthropist), Leanne Rodine (hygienist, public health Alberta and helps run a sealant program with U.S. dentist Dr. Jack Levine), Dr. C.R Anderegg (Perio, Seattle and Chairman of Great Shape! Inc.), Joseph Wright (Executive Director of Great Shape! Inc.) and Deleon Forrester (PR Manager of Sandals Grenada).
About the Author
Michael is a founding partner of DMC LLP, Canada’s largest dental-only law firm that helps dentists sell and buy practices in Ontario. Michael leads DMC’s annual Caribbean dental mission trips (Grenada, Jamaica, and Turks) Michael is now organizing Sint Maarten and Philippines dental outreach trips for 2023. Michael can be reached at email@example.com or 647.680.9530.