At the end of last year, Loc and Laura joined a team of dentists, dental hygienists and dental students on a volunteer trip in Vietnam. The charity, Children’s Health Aid Team, offers dental care and oral health education to underprivileged communities throughout Vietnam and run mission trips four times a year. The start of the trip was rocky, to say the least, with Loc realising she did not have a visa 12 hours before they had to fly out! Alas, the problem was solved (following an extremely stressful bus trip to Sydney International Airport) and they were on their way!
The November trip was focused on the Binh Duong province, a few hours outside of Ho Chi Minh City. Another bump in the road was hit when all our equipment wasn’t going to fit on the bus without having to leave a few group members stranded or strapped to the roof. This was solved by hiring a small truck to transport our materials.
Our first stop was a small school, Nha Tinh Thuong Ho Dao Bun. After difficulties accessing the school which was situated down a very narrow road and setting up the clinic, we started seeing patients at 10:30. Despite the late start, we were able to triage all children and treat 68.
On our second day we visited a school run by the Sisters of Saint Paul of Charles. This school housed children from minority communities, whose parents cannot afford to support them. They board at the school, have meals and are educated for free. Once they reach the age of 16, they either return to their community, go to university, or enter the workforce. At this school we treated 84 children.
Next, we visited a Cong Doan Con Duc Me Binh Nham, a boarding school where we stayed for 2 days. We were faced with a major problem with the first group of pre-schoolers as none had consent given by their parents for any dental treatment. So, we examined all the kids and found that there were 2 groups – children with absolutely perfect teeth or children with rampant decay requiring lots of fillings or extractions. After lunch we saw the older children, many of whom did have consent for treatment. At the end of the first day we saw 345 children, of which 69 received dental treatment.
On our final day we travelled to a local health centre called Khu Pho Phuoc Son in Ba Ria. The majority of the patients that we saw were from the local school, however the health centre was also home to handicapped children and homeless elderly people, most of whom needed treatment as well. Here we examined 120 patients, of which 58 received treatment.
While children were receiving treatment, we would take small groups and talk them through some oral hygiene instruction. This included how and when to brush, what foods are good or bad for teeth and what to look out for when you have decay or gum disease.
Overall, this November was a successful, albeit tiring, trip! It is always great to talk to the Nuns and teachers of the facilities and learn the stories behind their schools and the children that we see. Dr Lam is currently planning another trip to Nepal in November. If you would like to see more about our mission trips, scroll down the blog page.