Many children in the remote villages of developing countries would not have access to dental care without the support of Kids International Dental Services (KIDS), which provides a platform for young dental professionals to perform community service around the globe. Alameda Pediatric Dentistry’s Dr. Ngo and dental assistant Alice Cahigas recently returned from a mission with KIDS to the rural areas of Taguig City in the Philippines.
“It was so fulfilling to be able to help a little 7-year-old save both her bottom molars from going down the road of chronic pain and extraction,” Dr. Ngo says. “Oftentimes, we see 10-year-olds with no back teeth to chew on – just severely decayed molar root tips.”
Examples of rampant decay were the norm for the Alameda and Pleasanton Pediatric Dentistry (APPD) team during their six-day mission, when they visited four schools and two orphanages. Patients at these sites are often malnourished, the children of gang violence, street accidents, and other causes of abandonment by their families.
“The group tries to return to the same sites/neighborhoods so that we can track changes and improve the oral health of the population over time,” Dr. Ngo says. “This was my second time on this dental mission to the Philippines, and I saw a big difference in the oral health of the kids we treated.”
Dr. Ngo explains that dental work performed at the mission sites was done without compressors, which means there were no dental handpieces or suction. Consequently, the Atraumatic Restorative Treatment (ART) technique, which uses hand instrumentation to remove infected, decayed dentin and resin-modified glass ionomer to restore teeth, was utilized as opposed to “drilling and filling.”
“Between the 2010 and 2013 trips, the amount of teeth that were extracted was 13% less and the teeth we treated with ART nearly doubled,” says Dr. Ngo. “We didn’t see the same volume as in 2010, but the really great thing was we were able to restore more teeth!”
Over the course of the six days, Dr. Ngo and her team performed close to 600 treatments, including extractions and sealants. Patients received fluoride treatments before being treated for their pain.
In addition, every child that Dr. Ngo and her team treated received a talk about prevention, including nutritious foods and oral hygiene, subjects that are often unheard of among the candy and sodas ads marketed to children.
“The degree of rampant decay is disheartening … The prevention that is taught to each child will hopefully stay with them longer than the toothbrushes and stickers we give them,” says Dr. Ngo.
APPD staff member, Alice Cahigas, says the children were so grateful for the services that they prepared a special presentation for the team.
“Poverty is a major issue in the Philippines and as a result, the kids’ oral health is in poor condition,” Cahigas says. “We put a smile back to their lives and taught them the importance of good oral hygiene. I will never forget the experience, knowledge, and the friendship among all the doctors and the students.”