Dr. Ronald Heinle Returns from Mission Service Trip to Dominican Republic
Dr. Ron Heinle recently returned from his mission service trip to the Dominican Republic over Labor Day weekend, where he performed dozens of dental implant surgeries, bone grafts, and extractions on the neediest of patients. Along with 20 other general dentists and surgeons, Dr. Heinle joined Dr. Arun Garg, the premier implant educator in the country, and his staff from Implant Seminars at this very significant charity mission.
On this trip, they offered free dental services to Dominican citizens in dire need of dental intervention, patients who would otherwise never receive the dental treatment they so desperately needed. Dr. Heinle had two goals in mind for the event: to learn all there was to know about dental implant surgeries under the mentorship of Dr. Garg’s knowledgeable staff, and to make a profound difference among the people there.
What did you find there when you arrived?
Dr. Heinle’s group landed in the capital, Santo Domingo, which hosts a population of over two million people. Although their accommodations were perfectly suitable, they routinely witnessed dilapidated buildings, run-down neighborhoods, and dirt roads. The people’s need was immediately evident, but access to dental care was extremely limited.
What was each day like as you helped the Dominican residents?
Thanks to Dr. Garg’s previous mission work, the dental clinic that he provided was fully equipped with state-of-the-art dental equipment, including everything needed for implant surgeries, tooth extractions, implant prosthetics, bone grafting, and soft tissue management procedures. Patients were prescreened so that their symptoms, full medical history, and previous dental treatments were noted. Afterward, they lined up early in the morning at the front door of the clinic, all patiently waiting their turn for their dental appointment.
Dr. Heinle and his associates worked tirelessly from before 8am until the last patient was seen, usually after 8:30 pm. Dr. Heinle shares, “A woman arrived for her dental appointment with a huge basket of plantains on her head to show her gratitude to Dr. Garg and his staff. Dr. Garg accepted the basket, brought it out to the long line of patients outdoors, and shared the food with the people as they waited their turn. It was incredible.”
Overall, what do you think was the most meaningful aspect of the trip?
“On average, Dr. Garg estimates that the total number of dental implant surgeries my colleagues and I performed numbered over 400 in the three days we were there. One patient, mid-thirties, needed a total of 5 dental implants!”
Dental implant surgeries typically cost around $2,000 – $2500 in the US, and the restoration process costs another $1,500 – $2000. For the mission trip, all dental services were completely free of charge, due to tuition fees that Dr. Heinle and the others paid out of pocket in addition to their travel and lodging expenses.
Along with his educational seminars, Dr. Garg brings groups to the Dominican Republic at least 5-6 times a year. Dr. Heinle’s team prepared some patients for dental implant surgeries with bone grafting, and these patients will need restorative procedures after 3-6 months of healing. Another group will return to finish these patients’ dental work.
What inspired you to join the mission trip to the Dominican Republic?
Dr. Heinle was fascinated by dental implant surgeries and wanted to offer the surgery in his own practice. He joined Dr. Garg’s advanced post-graduate dental education classes beginning in the winter of 2015. Once he learned of Dr. Garg’s itinerary to the Dominican Republic to perform missionary dental work, Dr. Heinle decided to join Dr. Garg on his next trip. Dr. Heinle believes that learning never ends and education and hard work makes your life richer and more satisfying – a family motto that he and his wife Colleen try to impart upon their 14 year old son Joseph.
What do you think of your mission trip now that you’re back in the states?
“I would go back and do it again. I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to perform complicated, highly involved dental work among these needy patients, and I learned so much throughout the process. It was an amazing experience to be able to offer these dental implant surgeries and to see the difference we could make.” ~ Dr. Ron Heinle