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Dentistry outreach

Dentistry outreach changing lives

UWC’s Faculty of Dentistry held another successful outreach in August 2015 at the City of Cape Town clinic in Fisantekraal. A team of four fifth-year, five fourth-year and two third-year dental students as well as two third-year oral hygiene students, together with four lecturers, took part.

When the team arrived on a Saturday morning there were already over 100 patients in the queue, waiting for the much-needed free service. “We soon got ourselves organised in the consulting rooms and offices, using our five portable chairs and two chairs in our mobile clinic. And it was not long before work was underway,” explains outreach co-ordinator, Professor Robert Barrie.

As has been the case in the past, the Durbanville Club of Rotary International provided wonderful support as they performed the patient administration for the team and provided them with delicious lunch. “This was a huge help to us. Thanks Rotary!” Barrie commented.

Although some patients had to wait for a long time, they were all appreciative of the service provided by the UWC team. Participating students worked hard and seemed to enjoy the work, despite having had a busy week. Tea breaks were hardly taken and lunch was eaten quickly between patients, and the work progressed. “It was encouraging to see both staff and students getting involved in anything that needed doing, without having to be told to do so,” Barrie noted.

In these outreaches, the same situation prevails: many patients with pain and sepsis requesting the extraction of hopelessly decayed teeth. “We really do make a difference in people's’ lives.”

On the day, the team saw 119 patients, extracted 214 teeth, filled seven teeth, and provided a scaling and polishing for 10 patients. Several patients were referred to Tygerberg Hospital, where the faculty is based, or to the nearest public dental clinic in Kraaifontein for restorations and polishing.

“If we had had more time we could have seen many more patients, as we had to turn about 40 patients away,” Barrie added. “This was unfortunate but it’s a sad reality that the demand for treatment outstrips its availability.”

Barrie pointed out that the outreach programmes are mutually beneficial as many patients were treated and students developed clinical skills. “This outreach was, again, a lot of hard work and we had a really hard-working group of students who really enjoyed their work and were able to make a significant impact in the lives of others.”

Barrie commended the staff members from the clinic who were there to help them, his colleagues who accompanied them, including Prof Attie Louw, Dr Tina Roberts, Dr Costa Saridakis, Felicity Vanqa (who managed the sterilizing section), and Malcolm Adams, the driver. “Thanks are also due to the University of the Western Cape for financing these outreaches – a truly engaged university!”