DENTAL & ORAL HEALTHCARE PROJECT
85% of the population of Northern Uganda relies heavily on ‘traditional dentists’ and self-treatment due to a lack of professional dentistry and equipment. This can be extremely dangerous. Along with Medical Aid Uganda, Sigma Africa Healthcare and All Nations Christian Care, we aim to combat oral health problems by establishing mobile and complete dental surgeries and donating dental equipment to private and government facilities, giving many local communities essential access to basic oral healthcare services.
History of the project
A visit in December 2000 to the remote village of Adwir Alebtong District in Northern Uganda by one of our Trustees, gave us the challenge of doing something towards helping the healthcare needs of the local community. The community did not have access to basic healthcare services and the nearest hospital is over 70 miles away. Children were dying from curable diseases. Babies were dying from septicaemia following barbaric removal of “milk teeth buds” with a bicycle spoke. Village blacksmith extracts teeth in the street with hand made equipment not sterilised and with no anaesthetic.
The local community has a very strong traditional belief in handling dental cases in children. Once a child has a fever it results in an inflammation of the gum, which is presented as a white swelling in the gum. The traditional healers and the local communities believe that the swelling is “False Teeth” (GIDOG). They believe the swelling must be removed if the child is to survive. The well-meaning blacksmith carries out a crude extraction by digging into the gums with the sharp end of a bicycle spoke, without sterilisation or anaesthetic, subjecting the child to severe pain, as well as exposing them to further serious infections.
Since these people are not trained and the method used is dangerous, they end up causing more destruction either by removing the wrong tooth, braking the tooth or even dislocating the jaw. In most cases, the wounds are not treated properly which exposes the patient to more infections.
Oral and dental healthcare services
85% of the population of Northern Uganda relies heavily on “traditional dentists” or self-treatment because of a lack of dentists and dental equipment.
Data compiled in 2019 by Medical Aid Uganda’s mobile dental unit in Lira and Alemere Medical Aid Community health centre in Amolatar District, showed that Northern Uganda records dental caries of 40% in children and 62.5% in adults. Caries was significantly more severe in females as compared to males. Deposits were generally more prevalent in adults compared to children. Records further show 92% of the population to have at least one dental health problem, as well as the existence of advanced problems such as oral cancer.
There are huge problems with inadequate dental equipment and a lack of dental personnel. There is also a tradition of handling dental problems in children by unqualified people. There is less than one trained dentist for every 156,000 people – the ratio of practicing dentists to number of patients in Uganda is one of the lowest in Sub Saharan Africa.
Community health workers, school teachers, midwives, nurses, who are in close contact with communities, have not been trained to provide oral health education, or manage oral health services. Yet the involvement of this essential group within the society is necessary to empower communities to take charge of their oral health.
So what are we doing about it?
Our Ugandan branch, Medical Aid Uganda (MAU), is working to combat these problems by establishing complete dental surgeries in Lango Sub-region in Northern Uganda, donating dental equipment and 15 dental surgeries to private and government facilities in Uganda with the view of giving access to basic oral healthcare services to rural, poor areas.
Oral and Dental Care Services offered by Medical Aid Uganda will prevent dental diseases and infections through education and community sensitisation. Communities will be taught to maintain oral health and hygiene. Professionals will cure dental problems by filling in teeth and offering other clinical treatment.
We will relieve patients from pain by carrying out appropriate and hygienic surgical procedures, restoring and replacing lost teeth by use of dentures. We will offer professional advice to schools and communities concerning oral health hygiene and dental care. Please help support this worthy cause.