VOCO Dental Aid

In the context its “VOCO Dental Aid“ initiative, VOCO supports various dental aid projects. Volunteer aid workers get involved in these projects in a variety of locations all over the world, making a valuable contribution to the provision of basic dental healthcare and often joining the mission for several weeks. Their work is aimed most of all at those who only rarely, or never, have access to the services of their country’s healthcare system. Quite commonly, these people also live in remote and almost impassable regions which the aid workers can only reach after exhausting journeys. Once there, they then face further challenges. Especially when treating patients in such difficult circumstances, the volunteers depend on the quality and user-friendliness of the dental materials being employed. VOCO expressly honours the humanitarian involvement of dental professionals by making proven VOCO brand products available to them free of charge. These products are successfully used for prophylaxis campaigns and for dental restorations, and also sometimes to stock up dental treatment stations for future use. Find out more about several aid projects which have received support from our “VOCO Dental Aid“ initiative.

Mission in the "Sacred Valley of the Incas"
VOCO Dental Aid
Florian Schilling (in white clothing) during his humanitarian mission in Peru. Florian Schilling (in white clothing) during his humanitarian mission in Peru. Impressions from Peru. Impressions from Peru. Impressions from Peru. Impressions from Peru.

A field report by Florian Schilling (University of Erlangen, Germany). Organization: "Zahnärzte helfen e.V."

 

"Just after having passed my examination und before starting a professional life, I decided to look beyond the dental doctrine and dental standards at Germany’s university hospitals. Peru was my dream destination: On the one hand, due to its culture and way of living. On the other hand, due to reports about this project and association by fellow students, who had already experienced such an adventure during their studies. The decision was taken in favour of a project in Urubamba, in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The German association ‘Zahnärzte helfen e.V.’ manages a dental project in Urubamba and there, cooperates with the Peruvian association ‘Corazones Para Perú’. They offer medical assistance to needy children and also to adults in remote mountain villages. Further to my donation request to different dental companies, in the weeks before my departure, I received various dental materials and instruments suitable for using them during the mission in Peru.

 

After landing in Cusco, a city in the Peruvian Andes, which was the former capital of the Inca empire, I drove about one and a half hour to the town Urubamba, which would be my home base for the next three weeks. There, I lived in a shared accommodation together with three other dentists. The flat was situated upstairs in the house of a Peruvian female teacher, who took care of everything. As well as a Peruvian female dentist, employed by the association, who organizes a major part of the unscheduled campaigns and supports in case of communication difficulties. In addition, one is assisted by young people from Germany, who are doing their voluntary service and also have very good Spanish skills.    

 

Every morning from Monday to Friday, we treated children aged between 6 and 12 years from the ‘Collegio Ccotohuincho‘, a school in Urubamba. With the aid of former equipment from the German Armed Forces and donated goods from Germany, we carried out prophylaxis treatments, fillings and extractions. The children had to bring an ‘authorization’ signed by their parents to receive a treatment. Systematically, findings of all school grades were generated, and the most urgent cases were taken care of first. 

 

Two afternoons a week, we drove to a children village of the association ‘Corazones Para Perú’ in Munaychay. There, we focused on prophylaxis. We explained the children how to do a proper oral hygiene with the available means. Another project of the association is in Chicon. There is a small health centre, which, however, has largely ceased its activities except for the dentist’s chair. 

 

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, a pickup truck started very early in the morning towards Huilloc, a mountain village located at an altitude of about 3,500 meters – the ‘highest’ place of treatment in the surroundings of Urubamba. Here, we were able to carry out root canal treatments due to X-ray equipment.

 

Sometimes, the association also organises unscheduled activities. After a two-hour drive to a small town, in which the Peruvian military had built supply tents at the central place, we were allowed to use one tent as an ‘Odontologia’. Because there was a large number of patients and thus, one dentist chair was not enough, we had to extract teeth or make prophylaxis treatments on simple garden chairs. But the biggest problem was, that the power supply was only functioning for a limited time and often, the right instruments were not available or not yet prepared again. Hence, the range of treatments was narrowed down to mostly prophylaxis, filling therapy and extractions.   

 

The majority of the children shows a desolate condition of the milk teeth respectively of the first permanent teeth, partly with fistula formation already. The causes are on the one hand the constant availability of sugar in the form of sweets and beverages. On the other hand, the fact that parents are either not able to or do not want to explain their children how to brush their teeth. Compared to Europe, Early Childhood Caries appears disproportionately frequent and more pronounced. The case is different for elderly inhabitants, especially in the remote mountain villages. This is probably due to the fact, that those got in contact with sugar-containing nutrition only at a very late stage. 

 

On weekends, we had time for several excursions to the surrounding areas. We visited Puno at Lake Titicaca, the Uru Islands, the Bolivian coastal city of Copacabana, the Rainbow Mountain, the Salt ponds of Maras, the ruins of Ollantaytambo, the Old Town of Cusco, churches, temples, places and museums, Arequipa and, of course, Machu Picchu.

 

The cordiality and gratitude, with which I was received everywhere in Peru, mirrors the people’s mentality. It was an honour for me to gain an insight into their culture and daily life. Since in the villages in the Andes, where never a tourist gets lost, one really gets to know Peru.    

 

I thank VOCO GmbH for the generous support!"

Dentist at work between Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru
VOCO Dental Aid
Dr. Benita Kunze performing dental check-ups in a primary school. Photo: Kunze Dr. Benita Kunze treated the children together with Tanzanian dentist Diana. Pho Dr. Benita Kunze treats children in Tanzania. Photo: Kunze Dr. Benita Kunze treats children in Tanzania. Photo: Kunze Dr. Benita Kunze treats children in Tanzania. Photo: Kunze

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.”