Editor, County Press
REFUGIO — Belize is touted as a Caribbean paradise with Mayan temples, pristine rainforests and a barrier reef - a dream vacation spot in the tropics.
For cutting-edge dentist Dr. J. Tim Rainey and dental hygienist Cathy White and her husband, Tom, all of Refugio, the tropical paradise provided a challenge.
With diets high in acidic foods in Belize, tooth decay is rampant and modern dental care almost nonexistent in remote villages. The team targeted the San Jose, Orange Walk district in northern Belize where the team set up practice on church benches.
“The first inspiration was Cathy White’s life’s dream to go to underprivileged areas of the world and provide dental service,” Rainey said. “The second inspiration was mine – to teach dentists interested in learning how to teach themselves under the guidance of mentors.”
Rainey says the techniques are so simple that mentors are as capable as dentists – even more valuable to remote areas of the world. Correcting the pH in the highly acidic diet is as simple as brushing teeth with baking soda before going to bed.
“Baking soda neutralizes the acid,” Rainey said. “And it’s cheap.”
Belize was not randomly selected for the mission. In Nov. 14, 2010, the Whites’ daughter Emily, then 3, was seriously burned and was transported by HALO-Flight air ambulance to the Shriners Burns Hospital in Galveston. While there, the Whites met Damari, a 14-year-old child from Belize. Tom and Cathy were tortured caring for their child and seeing her pain.
“Mrs. Cathy, this has happened for a reason... we may not know what that reason is for a long time,” Damari said.
After watching the Whites’ video of their mission to the Dominican Republic, Damari invited Cathy to come to Belize where her father is a minister.
“Damari said the children were in serious need of dental and medical basics,” Cathy said. “Tom and I looked at each other and smiled... this was a wonderful idea!”
Working through the Whites’ organization, International Health Outreach, Rainey, the Whites and their Refugio volunteer force – Beth Linscomb and Debbie Strenadel – plus volunteers in Belize, the team treated 210 people in four days.
“I would love to go down there on nothing but a cosmetic dentistry mission,” Rainey said.
As much a scientist as a dentist, Rainey has spent his career breaking new ground in dentistry and challenging his colleagues. He is revered by progressive dentists around the world. Yet, his ideas remain a scourge to those who follow traditional dentistry.
“Minimally invasive dentistry removes decay without destroying healthy parts of the teeth without using anesthesia,” Rainey said. “The key for children is there is no pain. It’s like taking the rotten apple out of the barrel. When you remove the bacteria, you stop the decay.”
The local dentist believes that standard dental techniques of drilling away healthy teeth causes more problems than it solves, putting him at odds with some colleagues.
“What we’re doing for dentistry is planned obsolesce,” he said. “In 30 years, 80 percent of an $80 billion industry will be removed. There will be 80 percent fewer dental schools and 90-95 percent fewer lab procedures, and crowns.”
Introducing his techniques through mentors who act in a dentist’s capacity to underprivileged areas of the world is satisfying for “Rainey’s Angels,” which the team was dubbed on a mission to the Dominican Republic.
The citizens of Belize welcomed the team with open arms. Rainey currently commissioned the manufacture of portable, hand-held units that are easily transported. Yet, so far, Rainey has had to tweak every prototype.
The dentist says paradigms are not easily cast aside. However, his repeated challenge to other dentists has been, “prove me wrong... tell me why I’m wrong.”
Rainey says they never have. Rainey provide a lifetime warranty to patients who remain under his care.
“Show me another dentist who does that,” he said.
The group plans a second mission during the summer to check on their patients.
“I see myself as a quite ordinary individual who was fortunate enough to recognize his gift,” he said. “I strongly believe everyone on this planet has at least one gift. I capitalized on mine my whole life.”