"In addition to operating a state-of-the-art hospital ship to provide high-quality medical care to the world’s poor, Mercy Ships also provides dental care. In all of Togo, there are only eighteen dentists to serve 6 million people. As a result, during the 2012 Togo Field Service, a very large number of people sought treatment from Mercy Ships.
The Togo 2012 Dental Program was a phenomenal success. The central dental clinic in downtown Lomé provided dental services Monday through Friday throughout the field service.
To ensure fair access to appointments, Dental Team Leader, Sieh Moore, developed an innovative screening procedure. Sieh explains his method: “On Monday and Thursday mornings when patients are screened for service, dental team members first identify priority patients. Young children and people with extreme conditions are given appointments for treatment. The remaining appointment times for that screening day are then allocated randomly, sometimes to those first in line, sometimes to those at the end of the line. This method successfully eliminates the need to be first in line. As well, this method short-circuits any attempt to ‘sell’ a good spot in line.”
The volunteer dental professionals examined over 3,500 patients, and almost 8,400 procedures were completed. About 7,500 teeth were extracted, relieving much pain and suffering. Approximately 800 tooth cavities were filled, while 454 procedures for dentures or replacements were performed. Dental cleanings were provided to 324 patients. After receiving treatment, patients were given follow-up care items such as toothbrushes and toothpaste.
The Mercy Ships Dental Program also delivered an effective dental health education program. All dental patients, plus over 800 primary and secondary school students, received basic oral health education. The waiting area doubled as the oral health education classroom. While patients waited for treatment, Comfort Yeboah explained the basics of dental hygiene.
The day-workers (local people hired by Mercy Ships) who were assigned to support the dental team received eight weeks of superb professional training in dental assisting, instrument sterilization and oral health education. This free training increases the professional dental care capacity in Togo.
Before the dental clinic served its first patient each day, Roses Wall and Abdulai Barrie worked tirelessly to ensure that all dental instruments were absolutely hygienic and ready for duty. Abdulai, originally from Sierra Leone, first came to Mercy Ships as a caregiver for his sister who needed foot surgery. His gift with languages and his keen enthusiasm made him a perfect candidate for a day-worker role. “I am so happy to be of help and especially to learn about dental sterilizing from Roses, who is a wonderful teacher. I was so excited to continue my work with Mercy Ships in Togo, and now I am looking forward to going to Guinea,” he said.
Clinic days were also held at the Lomé Prison and at the UN Refugee Camp in East Lomé. Medical staff at the prison and at the refugee camp identified potential dental patients to fill the available appointment slots. Those most in need of treatment, especially children, were given priority.
For example, six-year-old Komla had suffered for a year with two painful teeth. While working at the market to sell grain, his mother heard about the Mercy Ships Dental Clinic. They came to the Monday screening at the clinic, and on Friday Komla had his teeth fixed. His grateful mother said, “I am so relieved for Komla, that he will no longer be up all night with his toothaches. I want him to do well in school, and, with healthy teeth, he can study hard.”
This deep appreciation for the Mercy Ships Dental Clinic was echoed in the Lomé prison. Theodore, an inmate who had never had dental treatment, said, “Because Mercy Ships is here and took out my three bad teeth, my horrible pain will be gone.”
Another inmate, Pascal, had been to a dentist once in his life, but this time he didn’t have the money to get his two broken and decayed teeth treated. “I never thought that I would have the generosity of Mercy Ships to fix my mouth. I will be able to eat without pain again,” he gratefully explained.
Yaovi, a recent arrival at the prison, was deeply thankful for the dental treatment he received from Mercy Ships. “A bad tooth made me so desperate with pain that I tried to remove the tooth myself. But it just got worse, and my whole face swelled up. It is a miracle to me that Mercy Ships is here helping prisoners. God bless you!” he exclaimed.
At the UN Refugee Camp, people welcomed free access to dental care. Manien, who arrived at the Refugee Camp from Cote d’Ivoire over a year ago, was virtually incapacitated with four extremely decayed and crumbling teeth. “Mercy Ships is giving me my life back again. After suffering for so many months, my ability to eat and speak normally is being returned,” she said.
Marie Claire, who has been in the refugee camp for a year with her daughter Debora, joyfully said, “My daughter has been in so much pain, and there was just no money for treatment or even pain medication. My only hope was prayer, and now, by the grace of God, Debora is blessed with professional dental care from Mercy Ships.”
Debora was fortunate that the two decayed teeth were baby teeth. In time, her permanent teeth will grow in. With her new toothbrush and toothpaste, her teeth should stay healthy. “We have been given a new start, and we will make sure we do our part to keep Debora’s teeth in good condition,” her mother declared."
The Mercy Ships Dental Program for the 2012 Togo Field Service was delivered in a convenient central location in downtown Lomé.
Dental Team Leader, Sieh Moore, and the fine team of volunteer dental professionals, including Roseann Farinacci to the right of Sieh, provided healing from painful dental conditions to thousands of patients in Togo. An estimated 4,000 dental patients were served during the entire field service.
Every Mercy Ships Dental Clinic patient was provided with helpful after-treatment information and support, including toothpaste and a toothbrush. By serving thousands of people, Mercy Ships provided a good boost to oral health awareness in Togo.
At the Mercy Ships Dental Clinic at Lomé Prison, patients were given a final check before receiving dental treatment. Patients were eager to be pain-free and to be able to eat normally again after the removal of decayed and broken teeth.
The Mercy Ships Dental Team started their day in thanks and appreciation for being able to share such important hope and healing through their volunteer efforts. In Togo, there are only eighteen dentists available to serve a population of over 6 million people.
Comfort Yeboah, who provided vital information about dental care and oral hygiene, was a favorite of all audiences. Her engaging and warm presentation style made learning so enjoyable.
Dr. Sandra Pedanou, originally from Togo, earned her dentistry credentials in Germany and is now practicing in a public health clinic in Norway. Dr. Sandra volunteered with the Mercy Ships Dental Clinic for three weeks as a way of giving back to her country.
Debora, a nine-year-old patient at the UN Refugee Camp, was fortunate that the two decayed teeth that were removed were baby teeth. With proper dental care, starting with using the toothpaste and toothbrush provided by Mercy Ships, Debora will maintain a full and healthy set of teeth.