Four-year-old Diego* came to America with his father, Santiago* in early fall 2019. During a treacherous journey from Central America, they suffered severe burnsr—just one of the harrowing and painful experiences they had to endure. Diego’s oral pain began to impact his well-being. Fortunately, his school was familiar with Sonrisas Dental Health and helped put Santiago in touch with our clinic. Santiago promptly called our San Mateo center and our care coordinators were able to make an emergency appointment for the following day.

During Diego’s initial examination, Dr. Judyth Lee discovered extensive tooth decay, with heavy bleeding from his gums. Diego’s father explained that Diego was experiencing constant extreme pain that affected his sleep and his ability to participate in school. Dr. Lee diagnosed Diego with severe tooth decay and infection and recommended extensive treatment under general anesthesia. She prescribed antibiotics for Diego’s oral infection, while our care coordinator team worked with our community partner, Mills Peninsula Hospital, to schedule Diego’s hospital dentistry treatment.

Just days later, Diego entered the operating room. Over several hours, our team of compassionate dental professionals extracted twelve of his twenty teeth and completed crowns on his remaining eight teeth. Because the cost of treatment was not fully covered by Medi-Cal Dental, Sonrisas relies on the generous donations of its supporters to meet the financial needs for Diego’s extensive dental treatment, which will help him have the best chance to thrive in his new home and school.

Following the procedure, Santiago shared that Diego has been doing well, and has not complained of discomfort.

“I was happy and grateful to have Diego seen as a patient at Sonrisas and I recommend this office to other families. I was thankful to also get help, all in my language [Spanish]. With [our] hospital experience, everything went smoothly, and I was happy that [my son] was given immediate procedures.”

Diego’s story is one of many in our community. In fiscal year 2018-19, Sonrisas treated 27 children through the hospital dentistry program. Because our team was able to identify and treat Diego’s oral healthcare needs at this young age, he has an opportunity to have a full, healthy smile when his adult teeth come in. Now that Diego has a dental home at Sonrisas, our team can monitor and support his oral health progress. Sonrisas is poised to expand restorative care to children in our community through this vital program with support from foundations and charitable organizations.

*The names and identifying information in this story have been changed for patient privacy.