Even small gifts can mean the world.
That’s what more than 300 UB dental students and residents have learned through Buffalo Outreach Community Assistance (BOCA), a School of Dental Medicine program that provides free dental care in communities from Appalachia to West Africa that lack access to services.
As of 2011, students and supervising faculty members in BOCA have examined more than 12,000 patients, performing nearly 8,000 dental restorations and 11,000 extractions—work valued at $3.2 million. Patients abroad have included residents of the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Mexico, Guatemala and Tonga in the South Pacific.
Many of the people BOCA treats have never received dental care before.
In Sosua, a small village in the Dominican Republic, patients were so appreciative of BOCA’s services that they embraced their dentists after appointments. In Belize, a grateful prison inmate hugged the student volunteer who restored his smile, fixing four cracked teeth.
While patients are BOCA’s most important beneficiaries, the dentists who take part in missions benefit as well. Student volunteers gain hands-on experience in dentistry and acquire important cross-cultural skills.