Where no dentist has gone before

In remote villages in northern Ghana, residents have never seen a dentist. In fact, there is not even a word for “dentist” in the local language.

When a team of 33 Canadian healthcare professionals, including three dentists, travelled to the area to carry out a medical – dental mission, the patients lined up for much-needed care.

According to dentist Dr. Michael Banh, one patient in her mid-40s presented to the dental clinic with a large benign growth in her anterior maxilla. Although she was not in any pain, the growth prevented her from chewing and speaking properly, and was an obvious esthetic concern to her.

The patient was unable to even close her lips around the growth. With the donated local anesthetics, sterile scalpel blades, and the plain gut sutures provided in the dental packs, the growth was painlessly excised and the wound was closed. “From that simple procedure, we were able to give the young woman a chance to smile again.”

The team visited four different villages in Ghana, setting up makeshift clinics under a canopy in an open field, usually beside a school or similar type of public building. Patients were seated in an upright sturdy chair for treatment, with a helper standing behind the chair to support the back of patient’s head. Dividers around the chairs helped provide some privacy during treatment. Typically, the dental clinics treated between 50-70 people each day, primarily for extractions.

Dr. Banh says many people had teeth broken right down to the gums, due in part to the practice of chewing chicken bones for the calcium. “Most people live with tooth pain or abscess until the tooth eventually works its way out of the bone due to periodontal bone loss,” he says.

“It’s difficult for me to put into words the world of difference the Dental Travel Packs made to our dental mission and our patients in Ghana,” reports Dr. Banh. “Without them, over 500 patients who showed up at our dental clinic would still be in pain or chewing on rotting tooth roots. Thanks to the donated local anesthetics, we were able to remove hopeless teeth for patients in a pain-free and humane manner that every person on this planet deserves. We were able to eliminate dental abscesses and provide medications for pain relief.

“If I go on another dental mission, I will definitely use the Travel Packs again because they are comprehensive, well organized, compact and the value of the supplies provided is incomparable.”