Mérida, October 29th 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Government sources report that the “Smile Mission” has provided over 96,000 adults with dental care, including 34,600 with dentures, since the creation of the mission in 2006.
The minister for health, Eugenia Sader, said the dentures include both partial dentures and complete ones and are supplied from six different attention centres around the country as well as through mobile visits carried out by the Superintendency of Banks (Sudeban). The dentures are primarily for people from the poorest sectors.
“The Smile Mission helps recover the self-esteem of our patients and of the Venezuelan people. This is quality free dental attention that the revolutionary government offers to our people in order to guarantee health to them,” said Sader at one of Sudeban’s denture distribution days yesterday.
The Superintendent of Banks, Edgar Hernandez, said that normally such dentures would cost 1,500 bolivars (US $348) in the private sector. Other reports quote a price of 2,500 bolivars (US $581) for a full denture.
The state run Venezuelan News Agency interviewed 63 year old Iraida Cedeño, who now has one of the mission supplied dentures.
“I went for about fifteen years without teeth, to the point where I’d forgotten what it is to chew. I swallowed food whole and it wasn’t good for my digestive system. Now I know that this definitely helps my health and it makes me attractive,” Cedeño said.
Cedeño found out about the dental mission through her communal council. “I was afraid, I’d gone a long time without anything in my mouth and I got used to eating and talking like that, but then I got excited about it and now I feel extremely happy… and can smile all the time,” she said.
The mission does not discriminate according to race or country of origin. AVN talked to another woman, Julia Manjarrez, also 63 years old, and Colombian. She said she had been using an upper denture that was “so deteriorated that instead of helping me chew, it hurt me”.
After her initial assessment in September, it took less than a month to provide her with new upper and lower dentures.
“When I first heard about the Smile Mission appointments I couldn’t go because I was visiting [family] in Colombia, but knowing that here in Venezuela I could get free, lovely dentures, of high quality, was hope for me and I feel very happy and thankful to these missions for providing me with the same rights,” Manjarrez said.
The Smile Mission began in June 2006 when a group of dentists from Táchira state presented a proposal to President Hugo Chavez for a project that would largely benefit senior people from the poorest sectors and provide them with dental prostheses. The president approved the project almost immediately.
Venezuelans can also receive free basic dental care, such as cleaning and fillings, through the second stage of the health mission Barrio Adentro.