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Spreading smiles across the world, local dentist takes practice to Guatemala

Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 12:44 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Part of being a medical professional is giving back to your community.

One Rapid City dentist is doing that and more, taking his skills across borders, improving health and creating smiles.

Floss.

Brush.

Rinse.

Repeat.

Taking care of your teeth is a daily task but across the world, it’s not always an easy one.

“Where we went, they have very limited access to care and really limited access to clean water all the time,” said Rob Lyons, dentist. “And so the kids end up drinking a lot of soda, a lot of Pepsi because it’s just as easy for them to get a bottle of Pepsi as it is to get a bottle of water. And so they have a lot of dental needs.”

Rob Lyons and his wife, a math teacher at Central High School, used their vacation time to help those in need, traveling to Guatemala to provide dental care.

A fellow dentist and college friend started going every year 10 years ago, but this was Rob’s first time going.

“Our clinics were kind of centered around the schools there,” continued Lyons. “They were set up right next to the schools and the whole goal of the clinic is to try to get these kids out of dental pain so that they’re able to concentrate on school and being a kid again.”

Rob owns Ponderosa Smiles on Highway 16, where everyone who comes through the door passes under a sign: “May all who enter as guests, leave as friends.”

A phrase that also found its way into the dentist’s heart and mind while in Guatemala.

“I feel like I made so many friends while we were there. Both my wife and I came out of there with some friendships that I know will last forever,” said Lyons. “Some of the most appreciative people that I’ve ever met. You would get done, as gruesome as it sounds, extracting quite a few teeth on a patient and they would stand up and give you the biggest hug in the world just because they were out of pain for once.”

Although he understands it may be tough for people to take a week or more off of work to volunteer, you do not need a dental degree to join the next trip to Guatemala.

Anyone can help by assisting, cleaning, and sterilizing equipment.

Rob also raved about the number of people they met at different hotels and hostels who paused their vacations to volunteer even for a day or two.

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