The Dentist Magazine.

Successful Tanzanian mission

Published: 23/01/2017

A programme which delivers safe emergency dental training to existing health workers in under-developed parts of Africa, giving the necessary skills to free their communities from pain, has been hailed as a huge success. 

The training, which was organised by charity Bridge2Aid, and supported by dental treatment provider, mydentist, will have a lasting impact on locals in remote parts of Tanzania.

As part of the mission, volunteers from the UK – including mydentist’s very own Laura-Anne Johnston and Yasmin Mehta – spent two weeks in the East African country, where they were tasked with training rural clinical officers to safely extract teeth.

Laura-Anne explained the scale of the task at hand: “I was made aware of the problems that the country has and how important this training would be to the local community, as many people cannot afford to have dental treatment and therefore will put up with chronic pain for months and even years.”

Thirty year old Ibrahim Mtama was one of the officers trained by the 10 strong team. He serves a rural community at the Mtimbwani Dispensary, where people were once forced to travel more than two hours to the district hospital if they required treatment.

It was a similar story for the locals at the Mkwaja Dispensary, who were served by clinical officer, Maryaan Jitambi. Her patients previously travelled for more than three hours to get to the district hospital.

With these arduous journeys typically costing over a day’s wage, even if the locals were physically able to get to hospital, on an average income of $1 per day, most simply couldn’t afford the cost of any dental care – until Ibrahim and Maryaan earned their qualifications.

Laura-Anne continued: “The most rewarding part was knowing that I wasn’t just going to be doing charity work for two weeks, then leaving the locals with no more access to dentistry. I knew that we’d be leaving the local population in safe hands if they ever need any future extractions.

“Over the two clinics we treated about 500 patients. Some of them had been suffering with chronic toothache for months and even years – one lady I saw had toothache for three years. They are usually treated with antibiotics and herbal remedies or nothing at all.”

Paul Tasman, fundraising and communications manager at dental charity Bridge2Aid, said:mydentist have been long term supporters of Bridge2Aid. Each year they commit to sending two dentists to join our training programmes in Tanzania. These dentists then give emergency dental training to rural health workers. The difference that mydentist make to our work is huge. They are helping some of the poorest people in the world out of pain and we are truly grateful for their support. Working with such a warm and caring group is a great experience.

Steve Williams, clinical services director at mydentist, said that these programmes benefit a significant number of people who had previously been suffering in silence:

“We’re always privileged to sponsor and support the programmes run by Bridge2Aid. It’s incredibly rewarding to see the training offered by our dedicated dentists having such a wide ranging and lasting impact in these communities.”