DEN­TAL SCARE

Mus­ings are thoughts, the thought­ful kind. For the pur­pose of th­ese ar­ti­cles, a-mus­ings are thoughts that might amuse, en­ter­tain and even en­lighten.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

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.

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