Dental Clinic Opens!
By Chantée Fisher
New sights and sounds have arrived at Congo Frontline Missions (CFM) in the past few months. If you listen closely, you might hear the high pitched hum of the ultrasonic scalar, operating in the newly established dental clinic. If you happen to walk past, you might see a porch and waiting room filled with patients awaiting care.
When Luke Fisher joined the team as Clinic Administrator earlier this year, he brought a vision to provide low cost dental care to the underserved communities in the area. Using his training in Atraumatic Restorative Therapy (repairing cavities with hand tools and filling materials), he planned to train local staff to clean and repair teeth as an avenue of medical ministry.
Plans grew a little more elaborate as CFM was donated a portable drill and suction unit, complete with two foldable dental chairs. We also requested and were donated the ultrasonic scalar from the manufacturer. These items have proven to be a great blessing!
After a few months of hard work, the campus clinic is up and running. Some local nurses have been trained and are rapidly increasing their skill in dealing with cleanings, repairs and extractions.
Out in the villages, the need for access to dental care is acute. Most dentists are in the city, and primarily extract teeth. Cleaning and repairs are not available. The cost of a simple extraction is equivalent to about two weeks of unskilled labor, and a month or more for more complex cases. This puts it well beyond the reach of most villagers, who operate on a very low cash income.
As a case in point: A few months ago Luke and I were riding to church on our motorbike when we passed a lady with an immensely swollen face. We stopped and in our limited French/Swahili vocabulary asked her if we could help her. She replied that she had no money, but we told her to come to our campus clinic anyway. Hers was a true case of suffering. Upon examining her, we discovered she had osteomyelitis in her jaw—the result of an abscessed tooth that had never been removed. Though the case was beyond our scope of experience, we did our best to help her. Luke was able to remove the offending tooth and also a piece of infected jaw bone that had broken loose and was working its way out of her gums. We also started her on antibiotic therapy.
The next time we met, she smiled and said, “The day you took the piece of bone out, my pain went away. I have been sleeping at night for the first time in many months!”
Crowd gathers to welcome the dentist in the village
We have started a mobile dental circuit, which takes the clinic into rural areas the first week of every month. We work with the established government clinics in villages to provide low cost care to the surrounding area for a few days. So far we have treated 94 patients in the first two trips, and formed good relationships with the rural clinic administrators where we have worked.
In the meanwhile, back at home we have found ourselves reaching out to an unexpected demographic: the wealthier citizens of nearby Kisangani. As news of the “cleaning machine” and reasonable extraction prices has spread, we have found ourselves receiving a steady stream of patients including a number of doctors and nurses from the city hospitals.
Luke and trained assistants holding a dental clinic in a remote village