Tanzania, the sixth most populous country in Africa is a prime tourist destination thanks in particular to the safari opportunities in the north. Mountains like Kilimanjaro also attract geologists year in, year out. However, Dr. Benita Kunze’s two-week trip to Tanzania was neither for research purposes nor to explore the country as a tourist: The dentist, who runs her own practice near Leipzig, Germany, was offering support to a Tanzanian dental clinic built alongside a general health clinic and a number of other facilities by the “Africa Amini Alama” aid project in Momella (a settlement at the foot of the Mount Meru volcano).
No comparison with European training
In this and other remote regions of Tanzania, the people live with practically no access to dental treatment. This means that patients requiring treatment never get to see a dentist and simply have to put up with their pain and the consequences it has for their general health. In order to avoid this, Diana has been treating patients at the dental clinic in Momella since December 2016. “She is a very young African dentist,” said Dr. Benita Kunze, going on to explain why she flew to her to offer her assistance: “Diana’s training is far below European standards, so I taught her about the dental products I had brought with me and showed her how to use them.” Dr. Kunze’s luggage contained restorative materials above all. The two dentists practised the precise placement of fillings together, so as to put Diana in a position to be able to help the local population even better in the future.
Teeth as fragile as glass
Many people in Tanzania are very poor. Dental treatment is very expensive and dentures are practically unheard of. The only procedures performed are those aimed at relieving pain. The treatment offered by Diana in Momella is free of charge thanks to the efforts of the aid project.
Most people living in the region around Mount Meru suffer from severe dental fluorosis. The water they drink comes from a local source containing a high quantity of fluoride, the cause of which is the nearby dormant volcano. The high quantity of fluoride causes brown discolouration of their teeth and destruction of the enamel. The dentine is exposed and also becomes brown in colour. “Their jawbones are very hard, which is particularly noticeable during extractions. Their teeth, in contrast, are so fragile that they break like glass and don't move a millimetre in the bone. Together with Diana I extracted a lot of teeth, as root canal treatments are also not possible,” said the German dentist.
Gratitude beyond compare
Dr. Benita Kunze also treated lots of children in the remote Massai region of Madebe, where they attend the “Simba Vision” primary school. “We gave the children a check-up and treated their teeth. All the while, we were showered with gratitude – from the children and the adults alike. They truly were two weeks rich in experiences. Young girls who had already known so much suffering learned to trust and allowed themselves to be treated. Small children took me by the hand and simply thanked me.”
The focus is now on preserving teeth by means of regular check-ups, raising awareness and regular training in the proper way to clean their teeth. As it is the most basic things which are needed most, every donation is welcome. “That’s why I’d like to say a special thank you to VOCO both from me and on behalf of the aid organisation.” Dr. Benita Kunze hopes to return to Tanzania next year. “My goal is to equip the children in the Massai school and at Simba Vision with toothbrushes, teach them how to care for their teeth and give them check-ups.”