Tuesday, 17 April 2012
SMILE - multi-district volunteer dental project makes a brilliant difference
Rotary Districts 9910, 9920 and 9940 Volunteer Dental Project in Taveuni Island Fiji (18 March to 1 April 2012)
- By Dr Johnston Luen, Team Leader
The New Zealand team of four dentists consisted of Drs Johnston Luen (General Practitioner, member of Pukekohe Rotary Club), Niel Ewart (Retired Periodontist, Remuera Rotary Club of Remuera Past President), Gary Lawrence (General Practitioner, AG, Kapiti Rotary Club) and Brian Peak (Retired General Practitioner, Milford Rotary Club Past President).
The Taveuni team members consisted of Geoffrey Amos (Taveuni Island Rotary Club Past President and Special Project Officer), Eke (Hygienist), Joey ,Vani, Arni, Petero and Mateo.
We were based at Matei on the northern aspect of the Island. We worked in nine villages located throughout the island, with Lavena and Vuna being the most remote on the north east and south east coast. It took over 90 minutes of travelling by road to reach these two villages. Three vehicles transported the people, furniture, dental equipment, petrol- fueled electricity generators and air compressors.
Clinical areas were set up in school or community halls. The schools and the people were notified in advance of the day and time that the Rotary dental teams would provide free treatment. Sometimes people were already waiting at the location when we arrived.
From experience we adopted “production line” delivery of treatment. Patients were examined then directed to the appropriate dentist for the various treatments required. Johnston did the initial examinations, extractions, as well as cleaned teeth. Brian cut the cavities with Mateo assisting with the suction. Gary placed the fillings with the help of the local hygienist, Eke. Niel cleaned teeth with an ultrasonic scaler as well as doing extractions. Although, each dentist had a specific task, we each overlapped each others’ tasks in order to provide a more productive outcome. Geoffrey organized and distributed the dental packs to each patient following their treatment. Each pack consisted of free toothbrush, toothpaste, sugar free gum, and educational material. He also explained to the head teachers and elders of the community the importance of dental health education, diet, and home care. Joey, Vani and Arni were the support staff, who cleaned and sterilized the instruments, charting treatment, providing lunch and tea breaks, as well as coming to our assistance when we had nervous patients.
From a clinical aspect, we noted that the further the village was away from shops, the people had less decay, but still had gum disease and heavy deposits of tartar around the teeth. Qeleni and Naselsele had the highest number of decayed and abscessing teeth in the children. The likely causative factor would be the easier access to high sugar foods including sweets, soft drinks and biscuits.
Dental education is the key to the reduction in dental decay and healthier gums. We witnessed the continuing lunch time tooth brushing program at each school.
We are sincerely grateful to Colgate Fiji who supplied free toothbrushes and toothpaste and Mr Rabbit pamphlets to every patient. Wrigley sugar free dental gum was also handed out. Extra toothbrushes from Luxident, plus Sensodyne and Maclean toothpaste from GlaxoSmithKleine were also available.
The Global recession has affected this project on several fronts. Air Pacific cut back significantly the amount of free excess luggage. The domestic airline Pacific Sun was unable to assist with excess luggage, hence we had to purchase another ticket to ensure all our luggage flew with us on the same flight to Taveuni Island.
Each night, we stayed at the same house, “Ucinvatu” which was provided free of charge by Phil and Diane Gray of Kawau Island.
Finally we have to acknowledge a lot of people, organizations and companies who have given us goods, grants and services which enabled us to provide free dental treatment.
We wish to thank the following:
The Harold Thomas Trust, the Margaret M Blackwell Trust, Rotary Clubs of Taveuni Island, Pukekohe, Remuera, Kapiti and Milford, the NZ Dental Association, ADA Wickham Trust, Phil and Diane Gray and Air Pacific.
Dental Companies: CG, Ivoclar Vivadent, Healthcare Essentials, Crown Dental, Oraltec, Colgate Fiji, Wrigley Chewing Gum, Luxident and Shalfoon Henry Schein.
The professional camaraderie, along with the wide range of conversational topics and clinical tales were enjoyed by the team.
This is a very worthwhile Rotary Project and we look forward to working together again in two years’ time.