Six Carolina dental students learned new methods in global dentistry during a service trip to Nicaragua last spring.

Exchange for smiles

Six Carolina dental students learned new methods in global dentistry during a service trip to Nicaragua last spring.

A group of UNC School of Dentistry students traveled to Nicaragua last spring to help treat children born with cleft palates and experience the life-saving power of dentistry firsthand.

With the help of an international team of experts — including 20 local dentists in the capital city of Managua and orthodontists from Peru and Venezuela — the six students performed 500 procedures, from basic cleanings to pre-surgical treatments, for pediatric patients from under-resourced areas.

Founded by second-year dental student Ryan Cody, the Exchange for Smiles project is a partnership between Carolina dental students and Nicaragua’s Operation Smile clinic, which provides education and treatment for children.

“It was really a dream come true to be able to volunteer as a dentist with them,” said Wendy McIntosh Song, a member of Carolina’s group. “It was a really holistic mission trip, and it’s very encouraging to see something that was so empowering for the locals and so sustainable for the patients.”

The service trip was just one of the 10 international service and outreach trips the UNC School of Dentistry offers. Each year, students provide dental care to patients in China, India, Malawi, Mexico, Moldova, Nepal, the Philippines and Uganda.

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Originally published Sept. 3, 2018.

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