As reported by the Saugus Advertiser, May 28, 2009.

Father-Son Team Bring Dental Skills to Belize

SAUGUS - While most people visit Belize for the beautiful beaches and tropical climate, Bruce Goldman spent a week in the Central American country providing patients much-needed dental care.

Goldman, a DDS who has run a practice in Saugus for the last 30 years, volunteered his services as part of a humanitarian effort spearheaded by the University of Connecticut Dental School.

In late April Goldman flew to Belize with a group of UConn students to treat natives suffering from tooth pain.

The UConn contingent included Goldman’s son Zack, a third-year student in the university’s dental program who helped organize the trip.

After arriving in Belize City, Goldman and crew drove south to Dangriga, where they spent the first night. The next day they traveled over rickety bridges and back roads to reach Independence, the site of the first two clinics.

To pull off a working surgical clinic, students set up tables in a large room and began accepting patients.

Goldman split his time between extracting cavity-filled teeth and offering student dentists helpful tips as they tried their hands at oral surgery.

Even an experienced dentist like Goldman could hardly believe the level of tooth decomposition he observed.

One adult showed up at the clinic with six children who he had adopted. Goldman recalled with a sigh how each of the youngsters exhibited serious tooth decay.

In some instances student dentists had to extract rotted molars from the mouths of 7 and 8-year-old children.“These poor kids’ teeth were just so decayed,” Goldman said.

Goldman told the Advertiser his office deals with maybe one child each year whose teeth are in as bad shape as what he saw in Belize.

What Goldman learned is that refined carbohydrates and sugars constitute a significant part of the average Belizean’s diet, both of which are leading contributors to periodontal disease.

Working conditions were less than ideal as the dentists persevered through sweltering temperatures that shot past 90 degrees.

With no air compressors handy, Goldman said his team was forced to use low-speed drills to do restorative work such as bonded fillings.

For the most part the dentists performed extractions, although they also practiced some preventative dentistry (polishing and applying fluoride) and handed out toothbrushes with instructions on how to use them.

Goldman acknowledged it was “heartbreaking” to treat so many suffering patients, especially the children who attended the clinic.

“It felt like we were just putting out fires,” Goldman said. “I’d look into a mouth and see maybe 10 decayed teeth and we could only take out one or two that were causing the most pain.”

Memorable Trip

After two days in Independence, the UConn team visited some Mayan ruins for a little rest and relaxation before heading to Belle Vista to set up another clinic.

In Belle Vista, Goldman and company met up with a second group from UConn to organize the largest clinic on the trip.

When the health center reserved for the clinic proved too cramped, arrangements were made to move the operation to a local schoolhouse.

“We turned the blackboards on their sides to use as tables and we got to work,” Goldman said.

More than 150 locals showed up looking for dental help during the clinic, which lasted five hours. Word quickly spread that dentists were in town and people who received treatment returned later with other family members.

“Everyone was so grateful to us,” Goldman said, adding that all services provided during the humanitarian mission were free.

On Thursday Goldman took a ferry to coastal Seine Bight and helped orchestrate another clinic in a beautiful church.

By this time Goldman found himself performing less oral surgery as students steadily gained practical experience.

The trip came full circle on Friday when the team returned to Independence for a final scheduled clinic.

As a former professor at the Tufts University Dental School, Goldman said the experience in Belize reminded him how much he enjoys teaching.

On a personal note Goldman made the most of the opportunity to show his son Zack the tricks of the trade.

“It was great working with my son and seeing him learn more about my profession,” Goldman remarked.

After graduating from Uconn, Zack Goldman wants to complete a residency and then join the family dental practice. Bruce J. Goldman, DDS, is located on the third floor of the Eastern Bank building on Route 1 South.

Goldman said the Belize excursion clearly accomplished the dual goals of helping disadvantaged people and providing the UConn students valuable experience in the field of dentistry.

“I loved being immersed in a different culture and being able to make a positive difference in the lives of the people there,” Goldman remarked.