Our aim was to provide dental and medical services to the population of Narkwa, a coastal village south of Accra. Although life in Narkwa seemed idyllic, the local people had inadequate access to healthcare, education, water and sanitation.
The aims of our project were:
- To assess the dental needs of the community
- To work alongside local dental professionals to set up a mobile dental clinic where patients could be diagnosed and treated
- To provide oral hygiene advice to reduce dental decay and associated disorders
The dental clinic was erected in the village primary school. At first people were hesitant to visit, however once news spread around the village we saw many patients ranging from 5 to 80 years old. The majority of patients seen were suffering from dental pain, with caries and periodontitis being the most common cause.
The project required an organised and passionate fundraising program before departure, which involved major UK initiatives and student-led events. Alongside this we received many charitable donations and equipment from several pharmaceutical and dental multinationals.
Interpreters who spoke Fonte were utilised to overcome the language barrier. Initially communicating and explaining complex dental concepts and scientific terms with the interpreters was a struggle, however as the days progressed and we got to know each other it became much easier and learned the value of non-verbal cues when overcoming barriers to communication. I firmly believe that these skills will allow me to provide a better standard of dental care in the future.
At dental school I had experience of providing oral hygiene advice on an
individual basis. In Narkwa we had to provide advice and instruction to large groups of patients of differing ages. To make it engaging and memorable we composed a song in Fonte, which highlighted the importance of brushing twice a day.
It is fair to say that dental health is not overly important in the lives of the population of Narkwa and the inadequate access to dentists in a country where 180 dental surgeons serve a population of 26 million does not provide motivation to improve dental care. The project showed that a sustainable model of education, prevention and treatment were needed in the village. I am certain that we made a positive contribution to improving oral hygiene and standards of care in Narkwa. Furthermore this has been a valuable experience in my dental training and one that will surely provide me with focus and determination to become and excellent dentist.