Hawick dentists make a difference in Africa

Nicola Johnstone attends one of the 1,315 people who received treatment.
Nicola Johnstone attends one of the 1,315 people who received treatment.

A Hawick dental team has returned from Africa where they were educating local communities in dental care and hygiene.

The trio from the North Bridge practice travelled to Tanzania for two weeks as part of a programme organised by dental charity Bridge2aid.

Dentist Ian McInnes was accompanied by his wife and dental nurse Gillian McInnes and Nicola Johnstone, also dental nurse. They returned from the trip feeling uplifted as they knew that the skills and training they provided would significantly change lives.

Mrs McInnes said: “It’s an amazing feeling because we didn’t just go out and treat some people and leave again, we trained medical staff out there with basic dentistry skills that they can now apply themselves.”

Unlike in the UK, Tanzania doesn’t have specific dental staff and clean sanitary surgeries to perform check-ups and operations.

They have medical staff who are trained in all fields, be that delivering a child or treating cases of malaria.

The dental team from Hawick provided another level of training for medical staff in the Babati region of Tanzania in the form of basic dental skills.

Mrs McInnes explained: “The main problem that we were targeting was pain. We were seeing people who had been suffering from severe toothache from abscesses and rotting teeth for years.

“This was very common so we were teaching staff there the most effective way of giving an anaesthetic to a patient and how to remove teeth.

“For us it was all about understanding what they could and could not have been expected to be able to do given their level or experience but also their facilities.

“There was no way they would be able to do a filling because for that you would need a drill and a drill runs on electricity.”

Mr McInnes and his team managed to get 11 out of 12 of their group to pass their training programme which meant an amazing 1,315 people received treatment as a result straight away.

All of the qualified officers received a dental kit of instruments and a pressure cooker to sterilize the instruments from Bridge2aid in order to start providing dental care within their local clinics immediately.

Mr McInnes said:“We are so proud to have been part of the Bridge2aid family.

“We were completely humbled by the positive attitude of the local population when they have so very little and have been in debilitating pain for so many years.

“We could learn so much from the humility and patience they exhibited in travelling and waiting for many hours to be seen at the clinics.”