11 years ago, Ranieu Dental was a new start-up dental practice in Vancouver, Washington, built on the values of providing excellent dental care for communities with compassion. The Ranieu Dental team provides patients with the same ethical and experienced care they would provide their own families. Four years ago, Dr. Ranola decided it was time to fulfill the promise she made to herself years ago, despite the ongoing demands of a full time practice. She closed the office, packed up the family and went to serve for a week in the most impoverished areas of Jamaica.
After their first year serving at the Mission, it was apparent to the existing board members of Zion Care International that Dr Ranola’s dedication and uncompromising care was exactly what they needed. She was offered a position with the organization and Dr. Ranola has been serving as a board member for Zion Care, an organization that helps provide medical and dental services to underprivileged areas, ever since. She meets with other board members once a month to plan their yearly service trips by identifying areas of most need.
Her passion for helping others has roots in her own childhood, and the seed of compassion was planted long before she treated her first patient in Jamaica.
As a child, Dr. Ranola experienced the pain caused by a lack of proper dental care, and as a result, suffered many oral health problems. It was this life experience that planted the seed of determination and desire to help others in similar situations. This is why she became a dentist. She knows, first hand, that great oral health is a combination of access to dental care and resources as well as education. That is why she made a promise to herself when she was accepted to the dental school that she would use her knowledge and skills to give back, to help others who, as she did as a girl, need great dental care.
This year, the Ranieu Dental team consisted of Dr. Ranola, her husband Dr. Trieu, their daughter and Baylie, Ranieu’s Lead Clinical Dental Assistant, joined with other dentists and dental students and medical doctors from across the United States as part of Zion Care. The Ranieu dental team worked tirelessly to provide free dental services to underprivileged Jamaican communities.
“In Jamaica, there isn’t a Medicaid system that provides coverage for basic needs like there is here in the U.S.” Dr. Trieu states. “So if you live there and can’t pay for services out of pocket, you don’t get the care you need, and your health suffers.”
He adds, “I see a great need there, and we have the resources and skills to fill that need. That’s why our dental team uses the resources we have available to us to fund our trip and provide services to those communities.”
Not only do Jamaican citizens struggle to afford basic dental and medical care, but the living conditions in many areas also make at-home care difficult as well. For example, the Ranieu Dental team recommends brushing and flossing twice daily. But when there’s no running water, that proves to be a challenge and leads to dental decay and other problems.
A physical exam is required for children to attend school, but many families with a working wage of about $1.50 an hour, find it difficult to pay for these exams. This could mean setbacks in schooling or other financial hardships. As part of the Zion Care group, Ranieu Dental provides a full dental exam, cleaning, fillings and any extractions necessary–all free of cost. This year the team provided care for 1,500 people, 600 of whom were children. Thinking of these kids eagerly absorbing their school lessons, because they were able to get this care and exam, fills our hearts with joy and brings a smile to our faces.
“We were serving in some of the most impoverished areas there. I’m very grateful to be able to serve,” Baylie says. “But no matter how demanding the days were, it was forgotten when we saw the smiles, received the hugs and thumbs up from all the people we helped.”
Outside of just creature comforts, the environment in Jamaica can make treatment logistically difficult. The Ranieu Dental team says the biggest challenge is the limited resources available (no running water, no basic hygiene materials, dusty air, hot climate, and no air conditioner) and being able to help patients maintain healthy smiles all year long. Fortunately, the group received supply donations from Henry Schein and Colgate which made their service trip much smoother. There’s also a huge need for good dental care, and she believes with more volunteers and materials the Zion Care group can provide care for even more people.
Despite the challenges, the mission trip is a highlight for the Ranieu Dental team each year. They say even though living situations there can be tough, and they see the work to be done, improvements to be made, they’re always very happy while there.
Our team feels we are fulfilling the practice mission to serve communities and improve the lives of others.
“My favorite memory from this year was being able to provide a dental cleaning to a man in his 30s. It was the first dental cleaning he’s ever had.” Dr. Ranola remembers. “After the long days spent working in the heat, seeing this man’s eyes brightened as he is overwhelmed with the fresh sensation then bursting out to hug us….it’s just all worth it.”
The camaraderie of dental and medical providers is just amazing. Everyone is working together for the greater good.
The level of selflessness each person brings is something that fills our hearts with joy. Dr. Trieu recalls one volunteer borrowed a car and drove some patients to get dental care he was unable to provide with materials available. These patients needed fillings in their front teeth. If left untreated, the teeth would rot, fall out, and patients wouldn’t be able to replace them. Without a full smile, they would have limited job prospects as an adult. This volunteer paid for their services out of his own pocket.
The Ranieu Dental team plans to continue their mission work each year. To stay updated with our planning and future trips, follow us on Facebook and sign up for our monthly e-newsletter below. We value your trust, so we’ll only send valuable information about your oral health and fun updates about office happenings.