Church Dental Clinic Serves All of Samoa

The dental clinic provides no-cost dental care to all in need, regardless of religious affiliation.

Public Issue
             

Entering the dental clinic operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Apia, Samoa, it seemed out of place to see two Carmelite nuns waiting to be seen by one of the two Mormon dentists at the clinic.

Asked how she came to know about the clinic, Carmelite Sister Margarita Petelo said that the sister she came with had been treated there before.

Upon inquiry, Connie Rencher, a volunteer at the clinic and wife of one of the dentists, indicated that the clinic provides no-cost dental care to all in need, regardless of religious affiliation.

She said that people become aware of the clinic by word of mouth and expressed concern that, because of its location in the Pesega area surrounded by many buildings owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including the Apia Samoa Temple, some people may believe the clinic is only for Mormons.

                

The clinic is currently staffed by two dentists, Dr. George Spencer and Dr. Craig Rencher. Dr. Spencer is a full-time missionary of the Church while Dr. Rencher is a volunteer, in Samoa for two months.

They are assisted by up to five or six volunteers who say they offer their service "out of love for their Saviour and the people of Samoa." Some also hope the experience will help them obtain employment elsewhere in the future.

The clinic is fully booked every day it is open (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday). Each morning the clinic is open a sign-up list is posted outside at about 6:00 a.m. Sometimes people have been waiting since as early as 4:00 a.m. to put their names on the list. 

“The larger purpose of the clinic,” Dr. Spencer says, “is to work with the government to promote better overall dental health of all Samoans. Also, to help increase the capacity and training of their own dental personnel. We have added new resources to the primary school curriculum to better educate the children.”

           

Dr. Spencer’s wife, Linda, also a full-time missionary at the clinic, told of a woman who received treatment at the clinic. She was on a 48-day cruise when, in the middle of the Pacific, a crown came off one of her teeth. When she approached the ship’s crew asking where she could go to get the crown put back on, they advised her to wait until the ship arrived in Samoa where she could go to the free Mormon dental clinic.

On shore in Apia, she approached the first available taxi. Not expecting the driver to know anything about the clinic, she asked if he knew anything about the Mormon dental clinic. He said “Yes, get in and I’ll take you there.”

Ten minutes later she was at the clinic and soon the crown was re-cemented back in place.

Following Sister Petelo’s dental work she expressed gratitude for the generosity of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for providing free dental care for Samoans.  

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.