Kentucky-Ecuador Chapter Provides Dental Care for Children in Need

Dr. Rankin Skinner, Partners Kentucky-Ecuador Chapter President

Dental Project 1 Cayambe_0.jpg                An Ecuador Dental Health Initiative Program member applying a fluoride varnish with ACP.

Thousands of underserved, at-risk children in Ecuador have received dental care due to the efforts of the Kentucky-Ecuador Chapter

We started the Ecuador Dental Health Initiative Program in 2002, providing training and sealant material for 30 government clinics. Fifteen of those clinics were in the poor areas of Quito and 15 in Ibarra, which is a Sister City with Winchester, Kentucky, my hometown.  

At first, we could only see a few kids a day in the clinic. To increase our reach, I approached the Minister of Health in Ecuador in 2007 and asked to change my treatment model. We wanted to use a method that has revolutionized preventative dentistry: a fluoride varnish with ACP or amorphous calcium phosphate. ACP helps to restore weak and broken-down enamel in teeth and can be found in toothpaste. With this varnish, we were able to go directly to the schools and treat all of the children.  

Kentucky-Ecuador Blog_4.jpg               The Ecuador Dental Health Initiative Program featured in La Gaceta Newspaper.

We have two schools that started with a high rate of tooth decay that are now decay-free. Capítulo de Quito President Santiago Andrade's school in Catzuqui is a perfect example of how well this material works. We started this school three years ago where every single child exhibited extensive cavities. We just completed that school a short time ago and the older kids who have been receiving two applications a year show a huge drop in decay.

Our impact is repeated from all our volunteers in all the areas where we work. I always like to have my volunteers see one school without our program, usually to distribute toothbrushes. The difference is stark.

As far as improving community health, there is no doubt we are succeeding. We go to the same 52 schools each year and in 32 separate communities. We provide students with a new toothbrush and encourage teachers to institute a brushing program. Everywhere we work, we now see a low rate of decay. In comparison, Ecuador's average decay rate is above 80%.  

Kentucky-Ecuador Blog_3.jpg                                   A team member providing dental care.  

My Clark County Dental Health Initiative in Kentucky also received similar results. With 19 dentists and 127 community volunteers, we dropped the decay rate by 78% in five years. Former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear secured a million-dollar grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission in Washington State and added $250,000 to have the University of Kentucky copy my program in East Kentucky.

Our local health department now has a full-time public health hygienist and has made our program a permanent fixture in our schools. Clark County has the lowest decay rate in the state and is 1/2 the national average.

We received the National Association of County and City Health Officers Model Practice Award, making our preventive program a national standard in 2013. In 2014, I presented a scientific paper in Boston to the American Public Health Association. As this shows, our program came about through years of study and research.

Eventually, something new will arrive on the scene and if I am still healthy and alive, I will be on top of it. Until then, I am convinced that applying a fluoride varnish with ACP is the best approach to preventive dentistry to date. 

Kentucky-Ecuador Blog_2 (2)_0.jpg         KEP President Rankin Skinner and Capítulo de Quito President Santiago Andrade with toothbrushes.

We are proud to be a member of Partners of the Americas and our work here. In our last Kentucky-Ecuador Chapter (KEP) meeting, we discussed the possibility of losing funding and KEP’s future. One of my volunteers spoke out that all our programs must continue as we have always found ways to do programming without funding. She said that the development of international understanding and friendship is more important now than ever when there are so many forces against this concept. I could not have said it better myself.