Faculty of Dentistry Outreach to Piketberg 3-4 March 2012
The faculty of dentistry returned to Piketberg for another outreach weekend in March 2012. A team of eight 5th year, five 4th year and two 3rd year Dental students together with two 3rd year Oral Hygiene students and two lecturers took part. Also in the group were three 4th year dental students from the University of Oslo in Norway who had recently arrived in South Africa for an elective visit.
The first mini-bus left from Tygerberg at 15:00 on the Friday. The second mini-bus only left at 16:00 because the 4th years had to write a test first. Unfortunately the mobile clinic broke down near Moorreesburg and finding a replacement radiator hose proved difficult but we managed, and Malcolm proved to be both an able driver and mechanic. We arrived at Steynville Secondary School in Piketberg only at 18:00 to unpack and set up our equipment. We then went to Dunn’s Castle guest house for supper and a good night’s rest in anticipation of a busy weekend of clinical work.
The two lecturers were Prof Neil Myburgh and Dr Rob Barrie, assisted by two UWC graduates – Dr Winifred Asia from the Saldanha clinic and Dr Grethe Nel who is doing her community service at Clanwilliam. Dr Nel visited Piketberg with us last year as a student, so she knew what to do!
As we had done the previous time, one classroom was used as both the screening venue, using a portable chair and light, as well as the sterilization department using our 2 new autoclaves. Four other classrooms were used as “surgeries” using a portable chair, light and suction unit. Used instruments were exchanged for sterile ones in the screening/sterilizing room, and the next patient was seen. While all this was going on, the two chairs in the mobile clinic were being used for fillings and scaling and polishing. It was a pleasure to use the new equipment in the mobile clinic (sponsored by the Professional Provident Society), the oral hygienists particularly enjoyed the ultrasonic scalers. In fact the mobile clinic had a queue of patients waiting outside all weekend.
We returned on the Sunday morning, a much cooler day, and work began again. The church groups meeting in the school provided plenty of background music. The power kept tripping, but the school handyman sorted that out too.
By now the Norwegian students, who had never extracted a tooth before, were getting into the swing of things and were being ably taught by our own students. Their perceptions about the differences between first-world and third-world dentistry were insightful. The requests for the extraction of four front teeth when only some were decayed, was a learning experience for them too. Maybe one day our demand for dental services will resemble Norway’s.
Over the two days, we treated 114 patients. We extracted 240 teeth, placed 40 fillings and provided 8 patients with a scaling and polishing. This was less patients than before, but the greater proportion of teeth being filled is good news. But there is still a great need for dental services in this community and it is often difficult to decide what work needs to be done now, and what can be left for the next visit.
A special word of thanks to my colleagues, Prof Myburgh, Dr Asia and Dr Nel who accompanied us, and our three trusty drivers; Malcolm Adams, Hansie Koopman and Jerome Leo. Also to Steynville Secondary school who made their premises available for us and thanks is due in particular to Mr Skippers, the Governing Body Chairperson, who was there the whole time and able to assist us in solving all the little problems that occurred. They made it all possible.
This was our first outreach activity for 2012. What a privilege to work with such enthusiastic young students who treat each patient with empathy and enthusiasm. The University of the Western Cape can really be proud of them. We look forward to our next trip to Piketberg which is planned for mid-April 2012 – there is still a need there for our services. And there is no shortage of student volunteers!
Faculty of Dentistry Outreach to Piketberg 12-13 May 2012
The faculty of dentistry returned to Piketberg for another outreach weekend in May 2012. The visit was delayed by a month due to the major engine overhaul that the mobile clinic needed (after 24 years of service). A team of five 5th year, six 4th year and two 3rd year Dental students together with two 3rd year Oral Hygiene students and four lecturers took part.
We travelled to Piketberg in two mini-buses as 3rd years and the 4th years had to first write a test on the Friday afternoon. The fifth years and oral hygiene students therefore had to unpack and set up the equipment at Steynsville Secondary School in Piketberg. The other group met us at Dunn’s Castle guest house where we had supper and a good night’s rest.
When we arrived at the school soon after 08:00 on the Saturday morning, there were only 15 patients waiting for us in the waiting room (school hall), and we thought that we would be home very early. However a trickle of patients kept arriving throughout the day.
The lecturers were Prof Attie Louw, Dr Soraya Harnekar, Ms Natalie Gordon and Dr Rob Barrie, assisted by Dr Costa Saridakis (our private practice voluntary helper) and Dr Melvin Hornimann – head of dental services for the West Coast Health District.
As we had done on previous occasions, one classroom was used as both the screening venue, using a portable chair and light, as well as the sterilization department using our 2 autoclaves. Four other classrooms were used as “surgeries” using a portable chair, light and suction unit. Used instruments were exchanged for sterile ones in the screening/sterilizing room, and the next patient was seen. While all this was going on, the two chairs in the mobile clinic were being used for fillings and scaling and polishing.
It was noticeable that more patients requested fillings rather than extractions – especially on their front teeth. One was so pleased when she saw the sterling work that the student has done on her front teeth that she jumped up from the chair and gave him a big hug! The mobile clinic had a queue of patients waiting outside all weekend.
When the patients stopped coming, we called it a day. We tidied up and went back to the guest house to relax, before having a braai and an early night.
It was a cooler, misty morning when we returned on the Sunday. By now the team was familiar with the system, and the work continued with speed and enthusiasm.
Over the two days, we treated 120 patients. We extracted 181 teeth, placed 33 fillings, provided 14 patients with a scaling and polishing, provided 17 fluoride treatments and even repaired one denture. This was about the same numbers that were seen on the last visit.
I asked the students to share some of their thoughts on what they learned professionally and how the outreach affected them personally. Here are some of their replies:
“I think the one thing I learnt the most is that I am capable of doing the work required of me without the help of a supervisor. It was a wonderful experience. Thanks for making it an enjoyable weekend. It is definitely something I would do again.”
“Professionally I learnt that dentistry goes beyond campus and quotas and my personal experience is that there are many people out there who need the help and attention and I can be one of the people who makes a difference to that situation :).”
“What I learnt professionally during the weekend is to work efficiently with time. I personally benefitted from the outreach by getting to work with people at grassroots level. I have found new respect for community dentistry. I also benefitted by getting to know some of my colleagues that I would have normally passed in the corridor. The outreach programme was a well needed break from the hassles of the city which I am truly grateful for.”
“I have learned that as a dental professional one would not always have the luxury of having "fancy" equipment or a variety thereof at one’s disposal. Therefore as a clinician you have to be versatile and adapt the treatment plan to literally make do with what one has, without compromising on the best possible care for the patient.”
“I benefitted personally from the outreach; the gratitude shown by patients makes you once again realize why we choose dentistry above all else.”
A special word of thanks to my colleagues who accompanied us, and our three drivers; Malcolm Adams, Hansie Koopman and Jerome Leo. Also, once again, to Steynville Secondary school who made their premises available for us and thanks is due in particular to Mr Skippers, the Governing Body Chairperson. They made it all possible.
This was our second outreach activity for 2012. Once again I was impressed with the dedication and enthusiasm of our students. They really put their patients first and treat them with such respect, and they get stuck in to the task in hand with enthusiasm. The University of the Western Cape can really be proud of them.
Dr R B Barrie