Mission to Serve

Posted November 15, 2016 by Danielle H

Dr. Ross Sanford brings dental care to Guatemala

Tell us about your background before going to Guatemala.

I am a general Dentist, graduating from the University of Louisville in 1980 with a DMD degree. I moved immediately to Las Vegas after passing the board before school was officially “out”. I associated with a dentist for 3 ½ years before opening my own practice in December 1984. I have practiced solo for my whole career. For the first 27 years I was in a space sharing arrangement with another dentist that I met while taking the Nevada Board exam. We built our first office in 1984 and quickly outgrew that facility. In 1994 we moved into our “Taj Mahal” in Las Vegas where we continued in the same arrangement for another 12 years. I sold my practice in Las Vegas in 2006 and moved to Alaska for one year of “R and R”. I obtained a license in Alaska and practiced as an associate there while playing in Alaska. We made a lot of money and spent all of it on playing in Alaska; fishing, hunting bear and moose, helping with the Iditarod Dog Sled Race and many other things. We moved back to Vegas in 2007 to find that the recent law change had destroyed the clinical practice of dentistry in Nevada, so we moved to Oregon. I established a new practice in December 2008; just about the worst time possible to start a new business, but with a lot of effort and care on my part it grew and we flourished. In 2015, I sold that practice to a younger man and my wife and I applied to serve as missionaries for the LDS Church. We were asked to be Dental Specialists assigned to the (only-one-of-its-kind in the world) Guatemala dental clinic.

What kind of work are you doing there?

2-dentist-mission-to-serveOur work here in Guatemala is focused on serving several populations: 500 orphaned boys and girls of the Tio Juan/Mi Casa organization, a municipal school serving about 800 “would be” street kids, La Esperanza which serves about 500 children, and current and future missionaries up to about 300 miles around Guatemala City.

We (there are two dentists here in our clinic) provide general dental services of the most basic nature; including cleaning, basic restorative dentistry, minor periodontal services, endodontic services and extraction of teeth. All services are provided at no cost to any patient. We, as doctors, are not paid at all. We pay our own way (airfare, living expenses, auto expense, food, etc.). We depend on donations for our sustenance of dental supplies in the clinic. Additionally, everything we are used to hiring for; cleaning, repairs and maintenance of dental equipment, and ordering supplies, is all done by us. The good thing is that we don’t have to worry about money!! We don’t charge anything for our services and therefore don’t have to worry about collections. It is amazing how fulfilling dentistry can be when money is removed from the equation!

Share with us what a typical day looks like.

We arrive about 8:30 and setup the clinic. That means getting out all the valuable stuff that we keep locked away at little-girl-mission-to-servenight (laptop computers, Nomad X-Ray machine, operating loupes, etc.), turning on the computers and getting the network up and running, and setting up our operatories. We have a short devotional every day before beginning. Patients arrive about 9 and we start to work. Lunch is from 11:30 to 1:00, then in the afternoon we do the same thing. When we are done, we take down the clinic and put everything away, lock up and go home. We work Monday to Thursday on this schedule. We take off Fridays like most U.S. dentists. Our treatments can be anything from a routine prophylaxis to horizontally impacted third molars. We do not use any sedation; only local anesthetics when required. One challenge is…Read the full story

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