Dr. Sawyer Serving with Samaritan's Purse

Dr. Sawyer Serving with Samaritan's Purse
Papua New Guinea

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The dentist is in...

Teresa and Allan see their first dental patients.
Saturday, June 9th celebrated the opening of our tiny dental clinic in the downstairs of the Kopf's house.  Jonathan Kopf had fashioned a functional dental chair for us out of a broken office chair inside of a large wheelbarrow.  This was a perfect solution to the one item I was missing...a dental chair!  After several hours of setting everything up we hosted our first brave patient.

We pulled 10 teeth our first day!  We didn't even leave any roots behind!  Months of planning really paid off.

Now if any of you are wondering what in the world I am doing as an ob/gyn doctor pulling teeth, I know it seems strange.  I knew, however, that there would be four or five of us teaching the Community Based Health Care and Village Childbirth Attendant class, and that there would be at least two of us that could work in the medical clinic.  Jonathan Kopf had asked me months earlier if I could bring a dentist with me to do some extractions.  I asked a friend of mine who is an oral surgeon if he could teach me how to pull teeth prior to our May 22, 2012 departure, which he did.

Teresa demonstrating the functionality of our
jungle dental chair...a modified wheelbarrow.
Subsequently we learned that tooth pain is a leading cause of pain worldwide.  Doing dental extractions would be a wonderful way to show compassion to these people.  One of our youngest patients was a sweet boy named Juice.  Juice's mother told us that he would cry every night because his teeth hurt so bad.  She had tried their tribal custom of cutting his cheek with a razor to relieve the pain and to let the spirits out that were causing his pain, but that didn't work very well.  We could still see the old scars on his face.  She believed that God had brought us to Yifififiki to relieve Juice's pain.

We were so glad that the oral surgeon that had providing my training had talked about pediatric patients and the limitations of dosing of lidocaine.  We gave Juice some oral valium before lunch and told them to come back after lunch.  He had several of his baby teeth that were infected and irritating the gums adjacent to his permanent teeth coming in.  We ended up extracting three of the infected baby teeth that way.  The only person in the room that didn't have tears streaming down their face was Juice's mother.  She kept saying that this was a good day because God had brought us to this place to relieve Juice's pain.  Juice was such a sweet boy that his cries of fear and pain (hopefully more fear than pain) made everyone else shed tears.

Afterwards Teresa gave Juice a brand new orange shirt because he had been so brave.  Several days later Juice showed up again as a repeat customer.  We had used all of the lidocaine that we could use on a pediatric patient and we were not able to remove a fourth stump of a tooth that was bothering him.  The second time he came back we had to not only give him oral valium, but we also gave him an IV sedative that is orally active and masked the taste of the medicine by mixing it with pancake syrup.  He loved it and kept sucking on the syringe for hours afterwards.  We also felt as if Juice was part of the reason that God had brought us around the world and deep into the jungle to relieve the suffering of this sweet little boy and to be the miracle that his mother had been praying for.  One of my greatest joys in life is to be the answer to someone else's prayers.  

Teresa and Juice after his first dental extractions. 


  1. Loving reading your blog posts...you have indeed been the hands and feet of Jesus! Can't wait to hear more stories upon your return.

  2. Love this! I love how you will do whatever it takes to show Jesus, even learn to pull teeth lol! Incredible!