Dr. Luis Fernando Orellana
Mobile Dentistry in Cuenca
By Henry Noel - Photographs Luis Nieto
Dentistry is one of the many professions being afforded the opportunity to reassess patient needs, modify its image and provide care in ways otherwise not considered in the past. This is coming about because of the world’s aging population. Even though health consciousness has improved the well-being of this aging population to the point that 65 is now viewed as the new 45, this aging population by 2050 is expected to almost double. Within this aging population, the number of non-ambulatory people is also expected to rise resulting in many unable to travel to the dental office for treatment.
Cuenca is one of the cities in the world where the growth in population of its aging individuals is being affected not only by its citizenry but by the influx of expatriates from around the world. If something isn’t done, this population may be left to live with untreated pain and chronic infection that can negatively affect its general health. For Dr. Luis Orellana, it is plain and simple—it’s just not acceptable. “The challenge is to be creative when it comes to caring for these aging patients and, by doing so, we can increase the health and welfare of this population.”
Dr. Luis Orellana is a Cuenca native who graduated from Unidad Educativa Particular Borja and studied at the Universidad Católica de Cuenca. As student body president at the university, Dr. Orellana’s interest in projects and his innovation resulted in his attention being drawn to the community, the elderly, and the disabled. “Our work focused in the area where people needed dental work, and the only way they could receive this work was if some sort of system could be developed to provide it. I saw this as a big need in Cuenca.”
After finishing college, Dr. Orellana studied dentistry and dental surgery in Guayaquil and Brazil then traveled to Columbia, Venezuela and Peru to further his education and experience. He specialized in the dental laboratory arena where he manufactured and customized a variety of products to assist in the provision of oral health care products along with his dentistry and dental surgery. After completing his education, he worked for the Ministerio de Salud Pública for three years then dedicated himself to the private sector.
In asking why he choose dentistry, Dr. Orellana explained, “no one in my family is involved with dentistry although my sister is in the medical profession. When I was a kid, I was playing and broke a tooth. My parents took me to a dentist and the dentist took an X-ray and placed the material used to make an impression of the teeth in my mouth call alginate. The flavor stayed with me and really made an impression. When I was in high school, the colleges would bring professionals into the school make presentations introducing the students to the different careers available to us. One day some dentists came to the school and during their presentation, they asked for volunteers. I volunteered. They placed this alginate in my mouth to make an impression of my teeth, and it took me right back to the accident I had as a child. The career grabbed my attention and that's how everything started.”
Dr. Orellana has been recognized for his community service by the United Nations. He proudly acknowledged the certificate hanging on the wall which was presented to him by the United Nations. “I have always loved community service and helping people that really need it. I believe our perceptions pass through the eyes and through the mouth. When someone speaks, when someone eats, when someone smiles, it's all about confidence. When I was the student body president of my university, I created a community program where we began to help to the people in need. Initially the program was providing a roof for a home and then expanded to housing. But I wasn’t satisfied with that. The housing issue was important, but I felt the people’s health was even more important and especially their dental health. If the people have poor teeth, they don’t eat well, and if they don’t eat well then, their general health will be poor. We began working with the United Nations in the health area with children diagnosed with cancer, etc. The United Nations took notice and presented me with that certificate.”
I receive a lot of compliments on my work and my prices from the expats, and they like the fact that I am responsive. For example, if they ask, ‘I need an appointment at 9 o'clock at my house. Can you be here?’ We go to their house at that time and attend to them at once.”
Being the only mobile dental service in Cuenca, he was asked how the idea of a mobile dental service came into being. Dr. Orellana quickly responded with, “We began with a van service to pick the patients up and get them to the office. And then I thought back to my student days with my issue of providing a better system of not only bringing the people to the dentist but bringing dentistry to the people. I also noticed the challenges people had moving about Cuenca, so we began setting up a van equipped with all the necessary equipment to perform most of the services we provided in the office. Word spread of ‘I have a dentist who comes and helps me in my home.’ The quality of work was complimentary, and I received great reviews. The rest is history. The care and security of my patients is paramount. Safety and happiness are very important to me and, with the mobile dentistry that I pioneered, I can help more and more people.”
When asked whether people used his service for convenience or because mobility is an issue, Dr. Orellana replied, “I believe both options are at play. My services are affordable ($30 above the normal office prices), and they are convenient. Most of my patients are senior and speak primarily English so communicating can be an issue. Let’s face it, even ambulatory people can find it challenging walking around downtown, so people with ambulatory issues really face a challenge.
Dr. Orellana went on to outline the basic procedures that can be performed during a home visit which include cleanings, diagnostics, teeth whitening, all prosthetic rehabilitation none of which need a sterile environment. He explained, “For a prosthetic rehabilitation, I bring all the sterilized materials, take the impression of the mouth, match tooth color, and bring everything back so I can work in the laboratory. Once complete, everything is re-sterilized and re-sealed, and I take everything to the patient’s home. On one occasion, for example, I had a patient who had cancer and could not leave her home, so she asked me as a favor to attend to her in her home. She was equipped with a sterile area in her home, so I was able to perform the work there.”
When asked if there was anything else he felt he wanted the expat community to know about him, his said, “The only thing I look to do is give patients confidence, and that confidence is in the form of smiling. I think a smile is one of the best things a person can wear and smiling back at someone is one of the nicest things that someone can do.”
“I provide individualized, comprehensive dentistry whether in the office or in the home. The advantages to the patient are financial, convenience, quality, and confidence. My patients are like my family—very important to me.”
Mon-Fri: 8am to 1pm / 3pm to 8pm - Sat: 8am to 3pm
Av. Patamarca, La Compañía neighborhood (200mts. before the bridge)
072 898922 - 098 426 1522