In America, good, affordable dental surgeons are available and accessible to many, but that’s not the case for many other countries.
Each year, a group of dental surgeons from Minnesota, often including Dr. Dresen of Dresen Dentistry, visit the South American country of Peru to do medical missionary work. In other words, they give of their time, talent and energy to help the less fortunate who need dental work done, but cannot afford the necessary procedures or find local dentists who can handle the more difficult cases.
The program, called “Programa San Francisco de Asis,” is named after St. Francis of Assisi, and has been in operation for several decades now. Their tagline helps define what they do: “Adding smiles to the world one child at a time.”
Dr. Dresen and his fellow team members repair many cleft lips and cleft palates.
Cleft lip is a birth defect that occurs when the baby’s lip or mouth does not form properly. During the 4th and 7th week of pregnancy several elements of the developing baby’s face need to fuse to complete the formation of the face. When this fails to occur a cleft is the result.
A short surgery fixes the cleft and restores the lip for a lifetime of smiles.
Meanwhile, the roof of the mouth is called the palate. Cleft palate is a birth defect where the roof of the mouth fails to fuse together during development. In some babies the front (hard) or back (soft) part of the palate fails to fuse. Cleft palate can occur with or without cleft lip. A cleft palate can lead to eating difficulty, hearing problems, dental problems and speech problems.
Surgeries are done in a hospital, with some parents travelling as many as 11 hours by bus just to bring their kids to get the beneficial, life-changing surgeries.
All the volunteer workers, including Dr. Dresen, pay their own way to Peru to provide expert cleft lip and palate surgical care. Since the program started, some 5,000 kids have had their lives transformed for the better because of this caring and worthwhile program.