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.”

 

 

“Dentists for Africa” – out and about in Kenya
VOCO Dental Aid
Anna Hübben and Kyra Kalbhen treating patients in the dental clinic. Group photo with the sisters at the dental clinic. Anna Hübben (l.) extracts a tooth with Kyra Kalbhen assisting. One of the two well-equipped treatment rooms at the dental clinic.  The patients in the mobile clinic in Marani are treated in garden chairs. Visit to Nyaura Primary School.

“We’d known for a long time that we didn’t want to dive straight into our careers as soon as our exams were finished. We were far more interested in completing a clinical internship combining work with a holiday, developing our existing skills and helping people at the same time. We started planning our trip while we were still busy with our state examination. After careful consideration, we decided on the “Dentists for Africa” organisation in Kenya. The organisation sent us a whole host of helpful guidelines as well as the contact information for the Kenyan dentist working there, Sister Fabian.

 

When the time came, we set off for Frankfurt with what felt like a tonne of luggage in tow. Every gram of our 4x 23 kg suitcases and 2x 12 kg hand luggage was put to good use, most of it for donated materials. We would have liked to have taken all the donations with us, but unfortunately the airline wouldn’t allow us to take any more free luggage. The donations we were forced to leave behind will be shipped to Kenya along with additional materials and equipment by Dentists for Africa.

Departing from Frankfurt, we flew to Amsterdam and then on to Nairobi before heading to Kisumu, where we were collected from the airport by Sister Lawrencia and Vincent the driver. After a long car ride, we finally reached our destination of Kisii and the Christamarianne Mission Hospital. The neighbouring guest house was to be home for us and two doctors for the next two weeks.

 

Sister Lawrencia was our point of contact, and we knew we could count on her at any time. She organises the central materials bank for Dentists for Africa in Kenya and is also responsible for the digitalisation of the medical files of patients with HIV. Thanks to the guidelines we had received, we were already aware of the high prevalence of HIV in the area and were equipped with double-glove systems, protective visors and face masks. The hospital also maintains a store of HIV post-exposure prophylaxis for emergencies.

 

Our workdays started at 9 a.m., we ate lunch around 1 p.m. and the dental clinic closed at 4 p.m. The treatment was performed in two rooms each equipped with a dentist’s chair and good instruments. With the help of Davine, a trainee dental surgery assistant, Sister Fabian, Jeal and Tony, two dental health workers on a practical placement, Sharon and Dickson, two dental technicians, and the medical technician, Felix, we were well equipped to deal with all sorts of treatments.

In addition, there was a small dental laboratory for the production of dentures. The most commonly required procedures were extractions and fillings. We were also able to perform tooth cleaning with an ultrasonic scaler and root canal treatments with an x-ray machine; however, the power cuts made treatment more difficult now and again.

Dentists of Africa also frequently makes visits to schools, and we were fortunate enough to be allowed to join them on one trip. We spoke to around 300 pupils at Nyaura Primary School about the importance of dental health and gave them a check-up. Where necessary, we also treated some of them subsequently in the clinic. Generally, we discovered that most children had at most 1-2 teeth requiring treatment – we’d expected much worse! Many children told us that they didn’t have a toothbrush and so Sister Fabian scheduled a follow-up visit to bring the children toothbrushes and toothpaste. The experience was truly one of a kind and the joy and gratitude of the children extremely touching.

 

All in all, the patients and routine were quite different from those we’re accustomed to in Germany. It makes little sense to make appointments at specific times and so they only specify a date. However, the patients are all very patient and do not expect to be seen immediately. We noticed time and time again that hardly any Kenyans knew you should brush your teeth for three minutes at least twice a day.

We also had the opportunity to visit another dental clinic in Asumbi, which is home to the mother house of the Franciscan nuns. We spent a whole day there primarily treating girls from the nearby high school.

At another mobile deployment at the hospital in Marani, the patients sat on plastic chairs in a tent and had their teeth extracted one after another. They were mainly adults who couldn’t afford treatment or live too far from the closest dental clinic.

 

In addition, we had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Schinkel, the founder of Dentists for Africa. He was there among other reasons for a weekend seminar focusing on optimising the situation in the area and better aligning the organisation’s objectives with the reality. This gave us some insights into the students’ experiences, wishes and difficulties.

In our free time, we explored the hospital compound with all its animals and vegetable patches. We visited the patient kitchen and bakery, where we found out lots about the preparation of Kenyan specialities. When Sister Lawrencia offered to organise a trip to the Kakamega rainforest, we also jumped at the chance. The rainforest and the Rondo Retreat Center are really worth a visit! The site itself is idyllically located right in the heart of the rainforest and is a perfect place to recharge your batteries.

On our 9-day safari, we visited the Masai Mara National Reserve, Lake Naivasha National Park, Amboseli National Park and Tsvao West National Park. Our journey finished up on the beach in Mombasa.

 

We had a truly unforgettable time in Kenya. The Kenyans are very open people and always treated us kindly. In particular, the sisters accepted us with open arms and took especially good care of us. The trip was very rewarding from both a personal and a professional perspective.

 

In total, of the 82 companies we contacted, 24 offered us a donation. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our sponsors for their generous support, which has made not only us but also the people in Kenya very happy (in alphabetical order):

3M Deutschland GmbH, Bausch GmbH, Busch & Co. GmbH, Clinic & Job Dress GmbH, Colente Group, Dentsply Detrey GmbH, Anton Gerl GmbH, Golf Toys GmbH, E. Hahnenkratt GmbH, Kulzer GmbH, Horico Dental Hopf, Ringlab & Co. GmbH, Hu-Friedy Mfg. Co., Ivoclar Vivadent GmbH, Karl Hammacher GmbH, Komet Dental/Gebr. Brasseler GmbH & Co. KG, Kuraray Europe GmbH, M+W Dental GmbH, MaiMed GmbH, MPS Dental GmbH, Nordiska GmbH & Co.KG, Polydentia SA, Romesco Handelsges.m.b.H, VOCO GmbH.”

Dentists in Ethiopia: working in one of the poorest countries in the world
VOCO Dental Aid
Adults are treated in the clinic. A member of staff from the local health centre informs patients in the waiting a The dentists also visit the children in the local schools and clean their teeth The dentists also visit the children in the local schools and clean their teeth The dentists also visit the children in the local schools and clean their teeth A twig as an alternative to a toothbrush.

Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in the world, has barely any access to dental treatment. Outside of the capital, there are only around 50 qualified dentists for a population of 63 million people. One person who wants to help is Dutch dentist Frank Paternotte, who set off for the country in the north-east of Africa at the beginning of the year. The aim of his trip: four weeks of providing dental treatment to people in the small town of Dembi Dolo in the south-west of Ethiopia. Together with other colleagues, he participates in a dental aid project initiated by Rotary Doctors Nederland (RDN). 

 

An empirical report by Frank Paternotte:

“A colleague and I are being hosted by the local Catholic mission and are allowed to stay in the Society of the Helpers of Mary convent. The staff help us with our work in the clinic, where we treat people suffering from toothache and trained members of the team remove plaque and calculus. If necessary, we also place fillings in children’s teeth. Adults requiring fillings are treated by the dentist at the local hospital. Our most important task here, however, is prevention. We explain to the patients how they can keep their teeth healthy. Consequently, each workday begins with a member of the health centre staff talking to a packed waiting room about dentistry.

They also offer advice on a variety of topics in the remote regions in the heart of the country. We are always on hand to help and advise as necessary. In addition to offering treatment in the clinic, we also visit schools to educate the teachers and pupils.

 

Cleaning teeth with a twig

 

A typical day at work here is as follows: after greeting the team, we prepare the large treatment room. It’s always hit and miss whether the electricity is working. Luckily, we always have a generator on hand. Then we visit the primary school with a nurse and our interpreter. Once there, we begin by washing our hands together with the teacher and her pupils before we start brushing our teeth. The main difference is that teeth here are brushed with a twig and fluoride-containing toothpaste. Proper toothbrushes are something of a rarity here, and those available are also too large for the children and too expensive. Addis Ababa University has displayed interest in this project and is planning to study the effect of brushing with a twig instead of a toothbrush.

 

As is there no running water at the school, we have connected up a 200 litre barrel with six taps, allowing the children to wash their hands with soap and water before cleaning their teeth. The barrel is filled by the kids who live on the other side of the river; They each bring a small jerrycan with three litres of water to school with them each day.

Back in the clinic there is already a whole horde of people in pain waiting for us. The treatment itself is exactly the same as at home. However, we have to be prepared to enter into lengthy discussions with the patients when we recommend having other diseased teeth extracted in addition to just the one which is currently causing the patient pain. We use a hand mirror to show the patient the fistula and rotten tooth. Using a large board, we then explain to the patient what has caused the “infected” tooth.

We reassure the patient that they will only have to pay for the tooth to be treated. Most of them then enter the waiting room with an anaesthetic and a little time to ponder their situation. During the treatment, some of the patients hold my hand tightly to ensure that I am extracting the correct tooth. We then advise them to come back for a check-up and, if necessary, further treatment and explain how to care for their teeth. In addition, we also inform them of the effects sweet foods and drinks have on their teeth.

When we treat crying children who are afraid of the anaesthetic, some people try to calm them with well-intended remarks. We often hear people saying “ma kuba” which means “it doesn’t hurt”. Then I have to interrupt the treatment and explain that they will actually feel the anaesthetic itself.

 

Catastrophic sets of teeth ruined by sugar and alcohol

 

Other patients that we treated included, for example, a girl with warts around her mouth that had been dabbed with nail varnish, a mother who came to have her teeth checked with her enchanting baby on her breast and a 12-year-old boy who had had an image of a dagger branded into his arm as a sign of belonging.

We treated a number of people with absolutely catastrophic sets of teeth, attacked and worn down by the regular consumption of khat (leaves of the khat plant, which have a stimulating effect when chewed and numb hunger pangs) combined with sugar and locally distilled alcohol. Many patients also presented with extremely worn teeth. The cause: they spend the whole day chewing cereal grains which still have grains of sand among them.

 

Our greatest challenge is now organising the project in such a way with the responsible people in the region that after three to five years they will be in a position to take it over and continue running it themselves. We are supported by two assistants who have completed a three-year course as dental therapists at Addis Ababa University. They are now learning simple dental treatments such as the administration of anaesthetic, extraction of teeth, placement of small fillings and education of patients.

We have intentionally involved national and local authorities in the project since the beginning with the hope that they will adopt an active role in it in the future.

 

All in all, I would have to say: it was a really intense few weeks. Once again, I was really impressed by the optimism, determination and the inventiveness of the local staff.”

Dental aid in Bolivia
VOCO Dental Aid
The technique for brushing one’s teeth was practised on the model first. Dr. Annette Schoof-Hosemann in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Dental student Tobias Kleinert diligently fluoridized as many of the little pati The dental aid team: Dr. Annette Schoof-Hosemann, Tobias Kleinert, Alexandra Kru

In August 2017, Dr. Annette Schoof-Hosemann set off for what would be her eighth dental aid mission in Bolivia, practically a routine occurrence now.


This time, she was accompanied by three dental students from the University of Giessen: Tobias Kleinert, Alexandra Krumb and Stephanie Kokoschka.


Together, the team headed for the first time to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, a metropolitan area with a population of more than one million. This was where their workplace for the next few weeks would be. A tiny, windowless room with old dental instruments no longer functioning properly in a paediatric clinic in the poorest neighbourhood of Santa Cruz: Los Lotes. Thanks to the financial support of the association dentists and friends, the room had recently been renovated and the equipment awakened from its Sleeping Beauty coma. It might not have been up to the usual standards in Germany, but with a little improvisation it was still possible to work satisfactorily.

 

There had been a large publicity campaign in Los Lotes, the result being that there were already long queues of patients awaiting them when the team arrived for its first day of free treatments. The three students were shocked by the desperate state of the patients’ dentition, but for Dr. Annette Schoof-Hosemann, who was in Bolivia for the eighth time, it was practically a familiar sight. She quickly informed them that they would come across far, far worse dental situations. After all, toothbrushes aren’t available to buy everywhere.

 

The team of four worked side-by-side together for a whole week in Santa Cruz: in 88 patients, they extracted 35 teeth and placed 75 fillings. After this exhausting but successful stay in Santa Cruz, the team continued on to Altiplano, at an altitude of almost 4,000 metres.
In La Paz, on the way to Lake Titicaca, the travellers stocked up on much-needed dental consumables for the practice in Challa such as gloves, face masks, disinfectants, painkillers and antibiotics. Of course, they couldn’t not buy teeth-cleaning utensils for oral hygiene classes in the schools either: all told, space was found in the luggage for another 500 toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste. After the shopping trip, the team travelled on approximately 140 km to Lake Titicaca and then took the ferry over to the tiny community of Challa. Whilst Santa Cruz is overrun by tropical heat and the hustle and bustle of a city numbering more than a million inhabitants, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the impressive natural beauty everywhere on the island.

 

The team taught more than 500 children in two of the three schools in Challa and the even higher village of Yumani about the importance of proper daily oral hygiene. This involved explaining the causes of caries, distributing toothbrushes, cleaning teeth together and then fluoridizing with Voco Fluoridin N5.

As Dr. Annette Schoof-Hosemann has been visiting these schools regularly since 2013, it is the fifth time the pupils have been able to make the most of the preventative measures. They are always extremely happy to see the “doctora” and the team can hardly give out the teeth-cleaning instruments fast enough. Unfortunately, their teeth are still in an atrocious state. Hardly any patients are completely free from caries; in fact, many children and young adults have barely got a single healthy tooth left in their mouths. For the German students, this came as quite a shock. The fact that sparse, completely destroyed dentition is actually more the normal state of affairs for young people was a revelation that both shook and deeply affected them.

 

However, initial improvements are already being seen, especially with regard to the interest shown in having teeth checked and cleaned. In fact, the team was positively overrun by schoolchildren. However, to ensure they had the chance to get to the truly urgent cases – the extractions – the dentists came up with a cunning plan: a present from the rewards box. The prospect of a present from the box almost triggered a stampede among the children.

 

As the mission drew to a close, the team was able to report not only having performed the desired cleaning but also treated 88 patients successfully with fillings and extractions.

 

Dr. Annette Schoof-Hosemann is affectionately known on the island as la doctorita (= little doctor). After all the hard work, the patients’ gratitude is a gift beyond measure for her and more than makes up for all the efforts involved.

 

VOCO supported this mission by donating various dental supplies including the restorative materials Grandio and Grandio Flow, the adhesive Futurabond DC and the calcium hydroxide preparation Calcicur. Interestingly, the most common tooth shade in Bolivia is A2.