Musings are thoughts, the thoughtful kind. For the purpose of these articles, a-musings are thoughts that might amuse, entertain and even enlighten.
Several readers have been kind enough to comment on a recent A-Musing in which I mentioned Inger's role in the Dental Project sponsored by the Rotary Club of Gros Islet, and have asked for more information. But before I get into that, here's something that purports to come from Colgate, not a company normally given to scaremongering:
"The bacteria from inflammation of the gums and periodontal disease can enter your bloodstream and cause hardening of the arteries in the heart as plaque develops on the inner walls, which may decrease or block blood flow through the body, causing an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. The bacteria from gingivitis may enter the brain through either nerve channels in the head or through the bloodstream, which might even lead to the development of Alzheimer's disease."
The Journal of Periodontology warns that gum disease could cause you to get infections in your lungs, including pneumonia. Inflammation of the gum tissue and periodontal disease can make it harder to control your blood sugar and make your diabetes symptoms worse. Diabetes sufferers are also more susceptible to periodontal disease, making proper dental care even more important for those with this disease. Poor dental care is also a possible factor in other conditions, such as immune system disorders, weak bones, and problems with pregnancy and low birth weight.
So you see, oral hygiene is important to your overall health, which is why Inger, a medical doctor in her own right, initiated her project to improve oral hygiene among primary school children in the north.
Children were screened at the beginning and the end of the project. Initially, the average number of cavities per child was over 8; by the end of the project, the number of cavities was zero, not one, among the over 4,000 children who took part.
With the help of a Rotary Club in London, England, The Rotary Club of Gros Islet purchased mobile dental units that were placed at health centres and children were bused in. Dental therapists from the Ministry manned the mobile units and treated the children. The Rotary Club paid the Ministry a fee of, I believe, EC$ 5 for each treatment.
The cost of transporting children between school and health centre proved to be prohibitive, so Inger as resourceful and willing to adapt as ever, decided to place the mobile clinics in the schools instead, which eliminated the need for expensive transport and allowed children to keep their dental appointments without interrupting the school timetable. It was also much more efficient and much less dramatic; the kids just wandered along one after the other for in-house treatment. And when all of them had been attended to, the mobile unit moved on to the next school.
Inger also informed each parent by letter and received written confirmation that they agreed to their child receiving treatment. In addition, she arranged class meetings with parents – with an amazing almost 100% attendance rate – to inform them of the program, demonstrate oral hygiene, show short info-movies, etc. The whole thing moved along with military precision. No shouting, screaming or bossing about, just simple, effective organization by someone who never takes No for an answer – yep, that's my wife for you!
My role in all this was that of general ‘dogsbody' and manual laborer, someone who did the drudge work like moving the equipment, arranging drinks and refreshments for meetings, and even preparing rooms for the in-house clinics. I remember with great fondness the old school at La Guerre – they have since pulled it down and replaced it with a ‘temporary' temporary structure – and we all know what that means: it will stay there till it too falls down – on what was once the children's playing field – where we discovered a small room tucked behind the principal's office that we converted into a mini-clinic. There was no water to the room so I had to hang precariously out of the window and tap into a pipe on the outside wall to make a connection. Of course, we then discovered there was no water so we had to provide a water tank, etc. You know how these things are in St Lucia. But in the end, they got a nice little dental clinic at the school and the kids were happy.
Yes, happy. The drama of visiting the dentist disappeared. The therapists who worked the project were absolutely fabulous. They treated the kids gently, kindly, efficiently and very professionally. And the legacy? Nothing. When Inger stopped, the project stopped due to the inability of any Ministry in St Lucia to sustain and expand any project initiated by benefactors. It really is pathetic.