In July 2015 a team of 12, comprising dentists, dental assistants, public health professionals and volunteers from San Francisco and San Diego traveled to Kenya to provide oral health care and education to the underserved communities of Loikokitok, a district in southeastern Kenya on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The team was led by Dr. Maureen Valley, an orthodontist from San Rafael, CA, Dr. Richard Schmotter, a dentist from Corte Madera, CA and Samson Saigilu, a public health officer from the Kenyan Ministry of Health, stayed in Africa for over two weeks.
Throughout their time in Kenya, the team visited seven public schools in very remote areas around Loitokitok, Amboseli National Park, and Olgulilui. They educated the students and teachers about proper oral hygiene and nutrition with fun and engaging lessons. Thanks to the Henry Schein Cares Foundation, a multitude of toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss were provided, making it possible for the students to practice the good habits they were taught. The team knew that for the most part, they were giving the students their first oral health lesson; one teacher even pointed out that a few of the students never owned a toothbrush before in their life, and instead, have been using sticks to clean their teeth. We heard this from the head teacher of a school that was so poor that they did not even have a school building–the classrooms were set up under Acacia trees. Needless to say, the lessons and Henry Schein products were greatly appreciated!
Along with the education they provided, the team treated over 100 patients and performed 71 extractions, 78 restorations and two root canals. Fluoride treatment was administered to the children. The patients ranged in age from three to seventy. The team mainly focused on the Teule Kenya Orphanage located on the outskirts of Loikokitok. The team screened and rendered all treatment necessary for the children, staff, teachers and the surrounding community. Although modest, the team set up a well functioning dental clinic at the nearby primary school, with a triage station outside. Inside one of the classrooms there were six stations: sterilization and instrument/supplies station, two restorative operatories with mobile dental units, two extraction operatories, and a radiology station with portable x-ray equipment. Since there was no electricity, the dental units and x-ray equipment were run by a generator. After treatment each patient was given instructions on how to maintain healthy teeth day to day with a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss from the Henry Schein Cares Foundation.
Later in the week all of the equipment and supplies moved to set up for a clinic in Amboseli National Park, one of the premier wildlife parks in Kenya. The team treated the Kenyan Wildlife Services (KWS) staff and rangers and many local community members and school children.
Dr. Valley and Samson Saigilu are continuing their tireless work in collaboration with the chief KWS game wardens to start an oral health awareness campaign within the park. One of the greatest tragedies the team has discovered since working in this area is the high rate of dental decay with the local Maasai village children who live in the park. This is due to the abundance of candy which is given to these children by the tourists who come to the park for safari. This project will bring awareness to all visitors about the negative impact sweets and candies have on the vulnerable children who receive no oral health education and have no access to dental care.
Lastly, the team had the pleasure of visiting two remote Maasai villages where Dr. Valley has started women’s business groups that aim to empower women by running their own businesses. Dental education and oral health care products for their families were also provided for these ambitious and grateful women.
Dr. Valley, Dr. Schmotter and Mr. Saigilu along with the team truly appreciate the Henry Schein Cares Foundation’s generosity with toothbrushes and dental supplies, and look forward to working with this fantastic organization again in the near future.