Q&A: Katie Arnold, Eldersburg dental hygienist, will embark on mission trip to El Salvador

Q&A: Katie Arnold, Eldersburg dental hygienist, will embark on mission trip to El Salvador
Katie Arnold, a Carroll County dental hygienist, is going on a mission trip to El Salvador with Helping Hands Medical Missions to provide dental services to people in need this November. (Contributed)

Katie Arnold, a dental hygienist at Freedom Dental Care in Eldersburg, is going to Santiago Texacuangos, El Salvador, through a mission trip with Helping Hands Medical Missions next month.

Arnold, who has been in the field since 1999, will be one of two hygienists going on the trip from Nov. 2 to Nov. 10. Between Arnold, fellow Carroll County hygienist Joanne Turgeon, and the accompanying doctor, they hope to help 600 patients.


Q: Have you ever done a mission trip like this?

A: No, I have never done a mission trip out of the country. I have always wanted to, but until now I have never been in a situation where I was able to. I have planned to go in the past it just never worked out until now.

Q: What drove you to get involved with Helping Hands?

A: I found out about Helping Hands Medical Missions from one of my instructors Joanne Turgeon from dental hygiene school. I can still remember the first day of dental hygiene school when we had orientation the instructors were introducing themselves. Mrs. Turgeon introduced herself and mentioned how she goes to El Salvador yearly on a mission trip to offer dental services. I waited until the end of the orientation to introduce myself to her and ask more questions about the mission trip. I knew right away that one day I would go with her. One of the reasons I wanted to be a dental hygienist was to find a way to provide dental services to those in need. I know that there are many people here in the United States that are in need of dental services as well, so I do volunteer here in Maryland with Mission of Mercy and other dental organizations as well.

Q: Do you know what kinds of services patients usually need on these trips, or do you expect to treat a variety of conditions?

A: I would imagine patients need all kinds of services. I know for most of the people in El Salvador this will be the only medical treatments they get for the year. There are three teams: the surgical team, acute care (like a walk-in clinic), and dental team. The surgical team will do surgeries like hernia repairs, remove extra toes and fingers, gynecological surgeries, and provide maternity services. There is also acute care service — which is like a walk-in clinic. They will see patients that have different illnesses like high blood pressure, tropical illnesses, diabetes, sinus infections, really any type of illness. The dental team will provide extractions, adult and child cleanings, and oral hygiene instructions for the family.

Q: What do you expect will be the most challenging part of the mission?

A: Not being able to treat everyone. The need for medical treatment is too great. We will be there for a week, and between all the teams about 7,000 people will be seen which is only scratching the surface. It will be exhausting, but worth every moment.

Q: What kinds of equipment and supplies have you collected so far for your trip and what do you still need to complete the mission?

A: The dentists here in Carroll County have been so amazing and kind. I was able to reach out to some in the area and I have received gloves, mask, gauze, fluoride varnish, scrubs, toothbrushes, and money towards my trip expenses. I am very fortunate to receive this type of support. I am in desperate need for more instruments like disposable mirrors, and any type of dental scalers. I can also use some cotton-tip applicators, topical anesthesia, more toothbrushes (for kids and adults), more fluoride varnish, small gifts for the kids like coloring books (dental-related), crayons, and prayers and well wishes. Any cash donations can be made payable to Helping Hands Medical Missions and are tax deductible.

Q: How can people contact you with donations, or get involved with Helping Hands Medical Missions?

A: Donations can be dropped of at Freedom Dental locally here in Carroll County at 6300 Georgetown Blvd 135, Eldersburg. You can also contact me by email at Volunteers are always needed for more mission trips — please visit the website for more information at Helping Hands Medical Missions at to get involved.