Healthy Teeth Lessons at Heritage Heights School in Onitsha, Nigeria
I’ve always aspired as a dentist to give back to my native hometown in Onitsha in Eastern Nigeria, where I grew up.
On Wednesday, April 27th 2016, I held the first ever Healthy Teeth Lessons at my first alma mater, Heritage Heights School.
Heritage Heights is private school in Onitsha, a small size Metropolitan city in Eastern Nigeria. The school is very dear to me, as I was one of the pioneer students, going there from kindergarten through high school. Furthermore, my mother has always been its School Coordinator.
It felt like a homecoming to conduct dental outreach and go on my first international mission trip here, where my education started.
From its inception to execution, this outreach was a divine inspiration. What started out very broad in my mind in regards to target population and activities narrowed down to a small group with focused event.
The outreach targeted 3rd and 4th graders. Approximately 120 school children participated, and each were informed in advance and given permission from their parents and guardians.
The event began with a presentation titled “Healthy Teeth Lessons.” The 30 minute lesson plan taught the importance of teeth, proper oral care habits, nutrition, and hand-washing. Next, we held an oral screening session. This gave each child received individualized screening, with assessment, instructions for the kids, and written observations to pass on to parents.
Only one quarter of the children had been to a dental clinic before.
A majority had 1-3 small cavities that needed attention within the next 6 months. A handful had severe caries that needed attention ASAP.
Surprisingly, quite a bit of children with slight calculus deposits on some teeth particularly lower anterior teeth. With each oral assessment, oral hygiene habits were reinforced, and those with excellent hygiene were also praised and encouraged to keep it up. Infection control measures were modeled for the observers, including the use of masks and disposable mirrors, changing gloves between patients, and frequent use of hand sanitizers.
The outreach taught me a lot about myself.
I thought I could undertake this project on my own, but I learned that no man who succeeds does so alone.
I looked beyond myself for support, and I found.
The local dentists in town provided great support, stemming from a family friend and her connections in the local dental community. For outreach and event coordination, my twin sister, my sister-in-law, and my cousin all contributed. Who knew an outreach could be a family affair!
I also developed creativity and resourcefulness to prepare a visual and exciting presentation. I found myself becoming more mindful as I packed only what was essential (and would get through customs!).
The ADA’s popular Mouth Healthy Kids education series was used as a guide for planning the presentation. In addition to my own personal contributions to the outreach, Henry Schein Cares Foundation was a major contributor to the success of this event, providing screening supplies and giveaway toothbrushes, toothpastes and floss.
In the giveaways for the children, I included a small bracelet with the message “Brush, Floss, Smile”. These were a hit among the children. I also have to mention the red Henry Schein T-shirts were also a hit with the auxiliary staff!
Healthy Teeth Lessons was very well received by everyone.
My mum was elated to have such event take place at the school. Particularly the children, teachers, and staff reaped a lot of benefits. For many of the children, this was their first encounter with a dentist. Some teachers and staff were parents of the school children, so they were more connected to what was being said to the children and were able to ask personalized questions about their own children.
With support from the local dental community, there are now plans to include Heritage Heights School next year to participate in World Oral Health Day. This will continue the message of keeping teeth bright and healthy, which was the heart of my mission trip and Healthy Teeth Lessons.
Most thanks to God for making this happen, and to all who supported me in this endeavor: The Henry Schein Cares Foundation, Mrs. Chio Enwonwu [mother, school coordinator], Dr. Chinelo Enwonwu [sister, alumna of Heritage], Nkem Igweike [cousin and alumna], Eziamaka Enwonwu [sister-in-law, auxilliary staff], class teachers and school staff, Dr. Ify Onyeagba [dentist], Dr. Umeano [dentist], Mrs. Charity [dental therapist, coordinator], Chinwe and Nneka [dental therapists], and Mr. Chimobi [Vanguard press editor].
I look forward to what the future holds with this project and more.