Hey, did you hear a dentist is here. We are sure the word has been spreading fast upon our arrival. Our first day was nice and easy, with good thorough exams. We now squeeze 20-30 exams in each day amidst our “full” schedule. Comprehensive has been replaced with, “Do you have pain?” Half way through our stay, we were booked out for the whole week and are starting to double book where possible. Lucky for us, the entire team continues to find more people to add to that “full” schedule.
If there is one thing I have learned from being on this trip, is that there is a huge need for a dentist at Project Mercy. The people have the same dental disease common in the states, but with little means for repair. Therefore, the tartar gets that much more aggressive and the decay that much deeper. We have spent the majority of the time with extractions and cleanings. We feel a bit like we are standing in front of a raging forest fire well prepared with high quality cups of water. Oh, sure, we can squeeze that extraction in…how about tomorrow morning?
With the overwhelming need for care, we have been brainstorming better solutions. We have a makeshift plan of attack. Upon request, we were given a promising nurse who picks up on things very quickly. She has been looking over my shoulder and getting lessons here and there. Our hope is that if we give her enough basics of oral hygiene, she can practice over the next year when we can return to take her to the next level. Today was her first day seeing patients and, in my opinion, she is doing great. This is all relative of course since we are essentially watching a medical student in their first week try to perform open heart surgery…after a quick lesson of course. If we can get a dental hygienist along next year, this may actually work out (How about it Mary?)
For anyone interested, most people here use a stick for cleaning their teeth. The stick’s inner part, when chewed soft, resemble bristles of a toothbrush. Though we have seen some effectively using these without problems, most people with great hygiene use a toothbrush and toothpaste. We hope to focus on this in the future.
One highlight was a cute little 6 year old boy in need of significant work. He was a champ through 4 fillings and 5 extractions. After we were done and convinced he must truly hate us, our translator told us he wanted to give me a kiss on the cheek. Not everyone has been to the dentist and to some the equipment may seem a little foreign, even something as simple as the dental chair. To be fair, I’ve seen this done before, but it still gave us a good chuckle. One patient thought it made sense to straddle the dental chair facing the headrest, while another got the right idea to lay down, but was laying down on the chair before it was reclined. The people have been wonderful. They have been very appreciative and fun to work with.
We learned a lot and look forward to working with next year’s team to continue developing a dental team here at Project Mercy. And yeah, sure, we can add another exam right after I hit send.
Nate & Laura