The Missionary Dentist
Adventists have long been taught that the medical work is the right arm of the message. But in the past we have generally applied this instruction to the work of the physician and the nurse, without thinking very much of one of the branches of medicine—dentistry. Dentistry is a highly specialized branch of the healing art with several divisions—prophylactic, surgical, and restorative.
Our doctors and nurses have practiced the surgical phase in extracting teeth in the mission fields to such an extent that in some places a great deal of their time is devoted to this work. When it becomes known that a missionary is coming to a certain section, the people with bad teeth come for miles to have them extracted. In most mission lands the governments do not regulate this type of work, and they usually approve of what is being done by the missionary.
The restorative side of dentistry, or replacing of lost teeth, filling, etc., is hedged about with government regulations that extend even into many mission lands. The one practicing this phase of dentistry must be a graduate of a recognized dental college and must also pass an examination given by the government of the country in which he is to work.
Our mission work has become so far-reaching that the dental care of the natives and of the missionary, and his family is becoming quite a problem to our mission board. Our missionaries on furlough often present distressing dental conditions due to inadequate attention received while in overseas service. As our young men graduate from dental college, they should give some thought to practicing in mission fields where they could be a real blessing in our work.
The dentist, unlike the physician, is largely master of his own time, and is seldom called for professional service on the Sabbath. If he chooses, he can arrange to have most evenings free. This enables him to devote considerable time to missionary endeavor if he is located in the homeland, and to be of even greater service in the mission field. The financial returns from the practice of dentistry would generally enable the dentist to work on a self-supporting basis.
The Spirit of prophecy has told us that our people should not be content to settle in communities where there are a great many Adventists, but should think seriously of going to out-of-the-way places where our work is not established. We are at all times to represent the truth properly, and if it is possible, we should support an evangelistic effort with the thought of organizing a church. From personal experience I know of the benefits to be derived from following this counsel. A number of years ago when I settled in a new place and led out where we had no organized work, it was not long until we were able to conduct an effort and organize a church. Today we have several churches in that field, am happy to report.
After establishing the work in the place just mentioned, we found that in .an adjoining part of the field there were a few counties in which our message had not been given; so I disposed of my practice and moved to that location. Now, after a few years, we have three new churches in as many county seats, with prospects of several others in the near future. The Sabbath is almost my busiest day, as I go about visiting and encouraging the new church members. I find that a dentist is especially fitted to do this type of missionary work. Seeing the work progress as I have assisted evangelists and other conference workers when they come to each field, has watered my own soul. This great message seems very bright to me today because of the small part I have had in helping to spread the gospel.
Our medical school is crowded, but at the present time dental colleges are opening their doors to our young men, and I feel that our ministry should encourage young men to enter this field. Most of the dental schools are coeducational, and young women are admitted on an equality with men. I feel that women make just as good dentists as physicians, and there are several specialties in dentistry for which women are particularly well fitted.
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