One dentist for 200,000 people

Oral health affects people physically and psychologically and influences how they grow, enjoy life, look, speak, chew, taste food and socialize, as well as their feelings of social well-being.

Severe caries detract from children’s and adults quality of life. It has been shown that children as young as 3 years of age with caries on average weigh 1 kilogram less than their peers.

So if you live in a developing nation like Madagascar where there is only one dentist for every 200,000 people, what chance to you have of getting help? That’s where the Mercy Ships dental clinic comes in. There is no room on the ship so usually a suitable local building is found that can renovated (like the one pictured) or if necessary even built from scratch.

Before building work begins it is agreed with the government or other local organization as to how they will use building once the ship leaves and the work is carried out with this in mind. Once the building is in a fit state, the dental equipment is brought from the ship and installed in the clinic by the 14 crew and 10 local workers that make up the dental team.

Not only are treatments provided (the most common of which being the extraction of badly decaying teeth), but also in the waiting area educators teach the patients basic dental hygiene and give away free toothpaste and toothbrushes provided by corporate sponsors.

In an average year the dental team provide over 20,000 treatments for 8,000 to 10,000 patients, often including almost 200 hundred complete denture replacements. Whilst it may not solve the whole problem, it certainly brings much needed relief to those whose life would be a misery without this kind of help!