Great Shape! Inc.’s Sealant Dental Project is a program to gather research, teach dental hygiene, and apply sealants and fluoride to every child in Jamaica. The program launched in 2010 in one school in Green Island, then expanded to communities, with the hope that one day the Ministry of Health will be able to offer the program island wide.

The Sealant Project evolved out of the 1000 Smiles Dental Project. 1000 Smiles volunteers offer free access to dental care, including: fillings, cleanings, extractions, sealants, dentures and oral health education in temporary dental clinics and schools. The Sealant Project consists of a smaller group of volunteers who travel to the island twice a year to update data and apply sealants and fluoride.

This project provides a wonderful opportunity for training as well, as our international volunteers collaborate with the Jamaican Ministry of Health and Jamaica’s University of Technology.

Tooth decay leads to disease, unemployment, even death. Dental disease is the number one, public health problem in the world – and it’s preventable. A successful community-based sealant program serves more than our chosen Caribbean. Similar programs could prove useful around the world in efforts to improve dental health.

Our group divides into teams consisting of dentists, assistants, hygienists and other support. Each team is assigned to different locations and/or rotations; some teams are mobile, others stay put. The Sealant teams work specifically with children, gather data (a D.M.F. score – decay, missing, fillings), and provide sealants and fluoride (provided by Pulpdent and Young Dental). We track the students over several months.

You can.

You don’t have to be a dental professional to volunteer on the Sealant Project. Dentists of all types, hygienists, dental and hygiene students and other dental professionals make up about 2/3 of our team. The other 1/3 are non-dental professionals who help with various jobs including patient flow, data entry, sterilization, chair side assisting and the education team. Volunteers must be 18 years or older. Exceptions may be requested from Great Shape! staff. 

Volunteers travel to Jamaica from all across the USA, Canada, Jamaica, the UK and beyond to help people in great need. In the process, we find that we the volunteers receive far more from the project than we can ever give. We ask each volunteer to join with an open heart, a good sense of humor, a willingness to learn and the ability to “go with the flow“. The purpose of this project can be spelled out in four letters: L-O-V-E!

In Jamaica, they have a saying: “One Love” – which simply means we are all brothers and sisters in the highest spiritual sense. That is why we care – that is why we come.

  1. Volunteers pay their own airfare and project fee*.
  2. Hotel, food, drinks, airport transfers in-country and resort amenities are all provided for free.
  3. You can be refunded some or all of your project fee and airfare through our Sponsor a Smile fundraising campaign. Ask for more info.
  4. Your project fee and travel expenses are tax deductible. All donations made to Great Shape! Inc. and the Sponsor a Smile campaign are tax deductible for the donor.
  5. Dentists and hygienists must buy or procure donations for all supplies necessary to serve 75 patients per week. Many volunteers get these items donated.
  6. All other volunteers bring 2 boxes of gloves in their size and 200 toothbrushes.
  7. Volunteers pay to ship their supplies to Miami. Great Shape! pays to ship the supplies from Miami to Jamaica.

* All project fees go directly to offset the expenses of the project to operate and administer a well organized, safe and productive international humanitarian experience.

Most volunteers stay for 1 week (9 nights/10 days). However, there are some two-week spaces, which are very limited and allotted based on programmatic need, seniority and other factors. You must arrive and depart on specific dates (see project date tab). If you wish to arrive or depart on other dates you must get permission from Great Shape! staff and you will be responsible for any additional expenses, including hotels. 

The Sealant Project is directed by Great Shape! Executive Director Joseph Wright (aka Papa Joe), Sherwin Shinn, DDS (aka “Doc”), Jack Levine, DDS, and Leanne Rodine, Public Health Dental Hygienist.

We work under the authority of the Dental Council of Jamaica and the Jamaican Ministry of Health. Therefore dental professionals must register with the Dental Council for temporary license to practice. Great Shape! facilitates this process. We often have Jamaican dental auxiliaries work with us in the clinics. These professionals are well educated and are experts in working on Jamaican teeth. We can learn as much from them as they do from us. In all cases, we volunteers must remember that we are visitors in another country and we must always approach our relationship with Jamaican officials with the greatest of respect, honor and grace.

This project involves several long-time volunteers who serve several humanitarian projects around the world. The work is challenging and rewarding. After a long, hard day in the field, you’ll experience fun and friendship in the relaxing luxury of Sandals and Beaches All-Inclusive Resorts. While the primary purpose is to help those in need, there is plenty of cross-cultural interaction, learning and free time. In general, work is 8-5 M-F while evenings and weekends offer free time. First Sundays of each project are set aside for orientation and set up.

You’ll work in the humid, tropical heat, often in rudimentary buildings, sometimes without power or water. Sometimes the equipment doesn’t behave. However, these challenges are all part of the adventure of humanitarian projects. We support the teams as best as possible to keep things flowing and going and to make your work environment as safe and comfortable as possible. 

The project provides patient chairs, stools, sterilization and delivery systems. Through the generous donations of various volunteers, we have portable ADEC delivery units. These units feature standard 4/5 hole tubing for slow and high speed hand pieces, air/water, and suction. The suction evacuates to a saliva bottle on the unit that must be emptied after every patient. We also provide steam autoclaves at each clinic, along with amalgamators and cure lights. We are working toward digital x-rays at every clinic but this is not yet standardized. We have some Cavitrons and tips but we recommend hygienists bring their own if possible. All dentists, hygienists and assistants must bring a headlight and we highly recommend that all other volunteers do so also. High lumen, focused beam headlamps can be purchased at REI or a similar store, try Black Diamond brand.

Volunteers will need to box up their needed supplies to be used in Jamaica and ship them to Miami by July. Great Shape! will ship all supplies from Miami to Jamaica, clear them through customs and have them available to you before your work starts. You will be given more instructions on this process and the needs list. 

Our projects serve the Parishes of Hanover (town of Negril), St. James & Trelawny (town of Montego Bay), St. Ann & St. Mary (town of Ocho Rios), St. Elizabeth & Westmoreland (town of Whitehouse). You’ll be located in health clinics, churches, schools and other facilities. Most locations are less than an hour’s drive from the hotels. Each morning, volunteers leave the hotel at 8am by van, start work by 9am and return by 5pm. Evenings and weekends are free time except for first Sunday with is dedicated to orientation and setup. Although your project will not change, your specific hotel/location can change at any time at the sole discretion of Sandal Resorts.

3 People to a Room with Couples exception…
Accommodations are in the first class, all-inclusive Sandals Resorts. They include all you can eat, drink and play. These hotels are within a 10-minute to 2-hour drive from the Montego Bay Airport. Each volunteer will share a room with two other people. Couples must either bring a third person or pay a third project fee to secure a private room for the two of them. Couples may also elect to room separately. Please note that sometimes the rooms are small & often at least one person is assigned a roll away bed. Volunteers will be matched with roommates by request or in the most compatible way, whenever possible. If you wish, organize your group into three’s so you can room with those you know. Volunteers are welcome to enjoy the many amenities of the resorts during their free time, including various restaurants, bars, entertainment, water sports, scuba diving, pools, etc. – all free!

The airport you MUST fly into is Montego Bay, Jamaica or “MBJ”. Volunteers make their own travel arrangements but must arrive and depart the hotel on the exact approved dates. Airfare from the US to Jamaica can vary from $300 to $900 depending on location, airline and availability. Many airlines provide service to Jamaica. Shop around before you buy.

All visitors to Jamaica are required to carry a current (not expired) passport to enter Jamaica. Americans, Canadians and citizens from several other countries are NOT required to have a VISA to enter Jamaica. If you are not a US or Canadian citizen, please contact us to make sure you have the correct documentation for entry and return. You should always carry a photocopy of your travel documents separate from the originals in case the originals are lost or stolen. This will expedite permission to re-enter your country. 

We highly recommend you consult your doctor before traveling to Jamaica or any foreign country for current health considerations. You may also wish to visit the US Embassy website or CDC website for latest health updates for Jamaica. In 2014, the Chikungunya Virus spread across the Caribbean, including Jamaica. Chikungunya is a virus that causes joint pain, fever, headache and sometimes rash. It appears the outbreak has run its course and is no longer considered a high risk in Jamaica, but all volunteers will be advised to follow normal precautions of wearing mosquito repellent and long clothes where mosquitos are present.

There are doctors and hospitals in Jamaica, but emergency services can be difficult to obtain in a timely fashion. As is typical in a developing nation, the quality or availability of health care services may be well below what you are use to.

Emergency evacuation to the USA for emergency medical attention may be required, depending on the severity and urgency of the situation. We strongly advise each volunteer secure their own emergency medical travel insurance and contact your health insurance company about what to do and what is covered in the event of a medical emergency. We also recommend you discuss an emergency plan with your doctor and keep phone numbers of primary care providers with you at all times.

According to the CIA World Fact Book, Jamaica has an HIV rate of 1.7% of the population as of 2012. This is far below many countries in Africa and other places (US is listed at 1%). We place a high emphasis on safety with our volunteers to take the greatest of care when working out in the field. Testing (patients and volunteers) for HIV is possible in Jamaica, but sometimes it is not available in a timely fashion and sometimes the patient refuses to test. In the unlikely event you are exposed to HIV, you will have to decide if you want to take HIV medications (prophylaxis). WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you review this possibility with your doctor prior to participation and have a post exposure plan in place for yourself.

Water in most communities in Jamaica is treated and safe to drink from the tap. Bottled water is also readily available. The food is plentiful, delicious, fresh, varied and safe to eat. Eat and drink well to stay nourished and hydrated!

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