Dentist helps Haiti victims

Dentists Alexander Villareal (l.) and Kevin Grant treat a patient in Haiti. Photo courtesy Kevin Grant
By Howard Koplowitz

Jamaica dentist Dr. Kevin Grant returned to help the people of Haiti with their dental problems last month for the second time since the devastating January 2009 earthquake, and he said conditions in the impoverished country have not changed in the year since he first lent his assistance.

Grant, who offered his expertise in and around Cap Haitien on the north coast of the island, said the city is “in dire straits as the most of Haiti is.

“Not much change as far as the infrastructure and the roads,” he said.

The dentist, who lives in Cambria Heights and practices in Jamaica, remembered seeing children without clothes walking in the Cap Haitien neighborhood of Shada.

Grant and his assistant, Dr. Alexander Villareal, went to Haiti from March 20 to March 27, where he and his team saved more than 200 teeth by using amalgam fillings and extracted 300 others from patients who were either in pain or had infection.

“Kids were jumping in their chairs saying, ‘Please extract this tooth. It’s been hurting for two years,’” said Grant, who has an office at 85-52 Parsons Blvd. in Jamaica.

Grant and his team used a pressure cooker and a portable propane tank to sterilize their instruments.

“We went to orphanages and we went to towns with no dentists at all, no running water,” he said.

Grant and Villareal brought Matchbox and McDonald’s toys for the children after their procedures were finished.

“The toys were a big treat,” Grant said.

The dentist said he also assisted one of his colleagues, who had to remove fractured teeth and pieces of jaw from a patient after the patient was shot in the mouth.

The jaw then had to be wired shut so the patient’s chewing would not be affected.

Grant said this was the first case he had seen like that, noting that type of patient would normally be treated in a hospital.

“That was an intense surgery,” the dentist said. “We got a little education out of [the trip] as well.”

Grant made his first visit to Haiti a year ago.

“My daughter is half Haitian and that was part of the motivation why I went there,” he said.

Grant said he would rather use his professional talents than donating money to the Haitian people because this way he can help more directly.

“It’s different than writing a check,” he said.

Grant said 20 percent of his patients are Haitian.

“We have many patients here of Haitian descent and they’re very appreciative of our efforts,” he said.

Villareal, who made the trip for the first time, said he cannot wait to help out the island nation again.

“It was a rewarding experience for both of us,” he said. “I’d go in another plane in a heartbeat if I could.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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