US volunteers to boost dental health

An American charitable dental organisation is planning a trip to Rwanda, in February next year, to educate children, teachers, nurses and community health workers about oral healthcare practices, good nutrition and tooth decay prevention.
A-dentist-attends-to-a-patient.-American-volunteers-will-jet-into-the-country-early-next-year-to-boost-the--dental-healthcare.
A-dentist-attends-to-a-patient.-American-volunteers-will-jet-into-the-country-early-next-year-to-boost-the--dental-healthcare.

An American charitable dental organisation is planning a trip to Rwanda, in February next year, to educate children, teachers, nurses and community health workers about oral healthcare practices, good nutrition and tooth decay prevention.

Dental hygienist volunteers from Rural Rwanda Dental (RRD), an affiliate of the American Dental Association (ADA), have previously offered local health workers basic skills on periodontal care at Kigali Health Institute (KHI).

Dr. Ibra Muhumuza, the Head of Department of Dentistry in KHI told The New Times on Sunday that the volunteers bring a crucial element in dentistry that is lacking in the country.

Dr. Muhumuza said: “Their services are not offered here in Rwanda because we lack dental hygienists. We have specialists or dental surgeons, general practitioners and dental therapists but no dental hygienists.”

“What they bring is very important in terms of preventive dentistry. They give us an extra skill in terms of the preventive care that we lack.”

According to Dr. Muhumuza, the US team offers important capacity building in terms of mentorship and training of locals.

A dental hygienist (also called oral hygienist) is a licenced dental professional who specialises in preventive oral health, typically focusing on techniques in oral hygiene.

A 2012 itinerary on the RRD website indicates that the team will arrive in Kigali on February 4, conduct training at KHI from February 6 – 10 and travel to community outreach sites from February 11 – 12.

Their website says the volunteers will visit village schools to teach oral health prevention techniques; apply sealants and fluoride varnish; and perform atraumatic restorative treatments as needed.

“The government [Rwanda government] has responded by training thousands of community health workers and building hundreds of community health centres, but there isn’t a large focus on oral health right now,” Dr. Richard Reckmeyer, the RRD executive director is quoted as saying.

Founded in 2009, the RRD made a mission trip to Rwanda in 2010.  

The volunteers mostly taught and carried out extractions.

Reckmeyer says: “So we wanted to develop a sustainable education programme that would focus on teaching children and health care workers the importance of prevention and oral health care. The key words in our programme are ‘sustainable’ and ‘education.’ We also wanted to make sure the programme was culturally appropriate and affordable.”

It is noted that when Reckmeyer applied for a grant to support the mission, his organisation’s programme caught the attention of Henry Schein Cares, the global social responsibility programme of Henry Schein Inc.

RRD was, last month, selected as a beneficiary of the HSC Global Production Donation Programme, and will receive thousands of dollars’ worth of health care supplies for use in Rwanda.

“The generous donation will support our community outreach where we place sealants and ARTs; apply fluoride varnish; distribute toothbrushes; and train community health workers, Rwandan dental therapists, nurses and teachers to educate children and families in rural Rwanda about oral health and nutrition,”  Reckmeyer said.

james.karuhanga@newtimes.co.rw

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