Kenya Smiles Project Receives Oral Health Kits for Children in Kenya

By Sheila Hurst, Ed.D., Kenya Smiles Team Leader

Kenya Smiles is a project of the Rotary Clubs of District 5160 in Northern Central California and the Rotary Club of Karen-Nairobi to improve the oral health of children in Kenya.  Partners include the Kenya Dental Association, the University of Nairobi School of Dental Sciences, and many others.

The Henry Schein Cares Foundation donated Oral Hygiene Kits and Oral Screening and Prevention Kits to the project that were used in January and February 2013.

Thursday, January 24, and Friday, January 25, 2013 

In late January 2013 Rotary District 5160 Governor Laura Day, Past Governor Karl Diekman, and I were in Nairobi, Kenya finalizing plans for Kenya Smiles. 

We had the special opportunity to present toothbrushes and toothpaste from the Oral Hygiene Kits provided by the Henry Schein Cares Foundation to about 270 children in three schools – two in Nairobi and one in Meru.  

The balance of approximately 20 were distributed by Dr. Kimathi Mwongera at a school in the outskirts of Meru.



Thursday, January 24, 2013: Nelson Mandela Academy, Nairobi

The Nelson Mandela Academy is just off busy Ngong Road, but the dusty side road was too narrow for our car, so we parked by the furniture crafters and walked in.  At least 50 smiling children were waiting for us, delighted to welcome visitors and eager to receive a precious gift of their own a toothbrush and toothpaste.

Our visit was organized by Loice Gatheca, Dean of the University of Nairobi School of Dental Science, and Mary Wanjiru, Caseworker at the Ngong Road Children’s Association.  They both accompanied us on this sunny afternoon to the primary day school located in the Ngando Village in Dagorett.  The children live in Nairobi slums, and many of their families have been affected by HIV/AIDS.

The metal school building is simple, the classrooms crowded, the supplies and materials limited, but Mary told us that the children are thriving.  They were certainly open and curious and interested.  We gave a basic lesson in oral health.  Lots of laughter and huge smiles were the result as they joined us in practicing how to brush their teeth.  The highlight, of course, was distributing toothpaste and toothbrushes to each child.

Thursday, January 24, 2013: Mlolongo Primary School, Nairobi

Dr. Stephen Irungu, the Chief Dental Officer of Kenya, suggested we visit Mlolongo Primary School, and Dr. Makau Matheka, Deputy Chief Dental Officer of Kenya, took us there.  We drove to the outskirts of Nairobi past Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and down bumpy frontage roads to the new school – the really new school with about 1000 students.  Many of the children come from the slums, from disadvantaged and poor families. They have a long walk from their homes to the school on the other side of the busy Mombasa Road each day.

It had been opened for just three days, a replacement for a much older school, and the children are very proud of the new building.  We met with more than 70 students between 6 and 8 years old who were receptive and charming, alert and responsive to the activities we offered about oral health including demonstrations of the correct way to brush their teeth.  They sang us a joyful song of appreciation for the toothbrush and toothpaste we presented to each child.

Friday, January 25, 2013: Kithoka Primary School, near Meru

Depending on traffic, Meru is 3 or 4 hours by car north of Nairobi on the other side of Mt. Kenya. 

When we arrived, Marilyn Brenchley, Director of the Thiiri Cultural Centre outside of Meru, took us to Kithoka Primary School.  She explained that since the establishment of free primary education in Kenya, many private schools have emerged to cater to the influx of children, while the economically disadvantaged students attend the public schools.  The area has a very mixed economic population, but it is the children of peasant farmers and “squatters” who attend Kithoka Primary.   Often children come to school with out having any food, and some are malnourished.  NGOs in the community have helped provide a better infrastructure, but there is much yet to be done to improve the learning situation.

On this day about 150 children in grades 4, 5, and 6 gathered under a large tree in the playground.  They welcomed us with a song, and then Marilyn and Head Teacher Nathan Ngiti joined us in a presentation about oral health and a demonstration of how to – and how not to – brush teeth.   The children lined up by grade (with no pushing) and politely thanked us when each received a toothbrush and toothpaste of their very own.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013: Ntharagwene Primary School, outskirts of Meru

The remaining toothbrushes and toothpaste were given to Dr. Kimathi Mwongera who wrote:

On February 20, 2013 I visited Ntharagwene Primary School, a school outside Meru with over 150 students.  I taught them about good oral hygiene tips and habits.  The children appreciated the toothbrushes and toothpastes and conveyed their heartfelt appreciation for the kind gesture of the Henry Schein Cares Foundation.

We sincerely thank the Henry Schein Cares Foundation for providing these dental supplies.  They provided a calling card for our introduction to these enthusiastic and lovely children, each one enjoying school and appreciating the opportunity to learn and grow.  Their eyes widened when they saw us carrying boxes of toothbrush and toothpaste.  The children’s smiles and expressions of gratitude left us with no doubt that this was a memorable event for all of us.

The Oral Screening and Prevention Kits were used by Kenya dentists who submit the following reports.

Saturday 23rd February 2013: Soweto Health Centre, outskirts of Nairobi

By Dr. Linus Ngedwa, Dentist In Charge, Aga Khan University Hospital and Kenya Dental Association Council Secretary

On Saturday 23rd February 2013, Kenya Dental Association in partnership with American Dental Association conducted an oral health awareness and treatment camp at Soweto Health Centre.

This health centre that serves the people of Kayole slums is located about 20 kilometers from Nairobi City Centre. The settlement is densely populated with estimated 10,000 inhabitants distributed in about 1600 households with an adult- children ratio of 4:7. There are about 800 structures with an average size of two 10 by 10 square foot rooms. Common building materials are timber, iron sheets, and cement used on the floors. A few stone houses exist mainly occupied by the structure owners. The ration of structure owners to tenants is 1:10, and rent charges range from kshs. 300 to 1800 ($3.50 to $21.00) per month depending on the quality of the house and services provided.

Piped water is available at more than 35 stand points selling at between 2/- and 3/- per 20 liters container and managed by the water meter owners. The settlement has no sewer line connection and relies on over 200 pit latrines built and maintained by the structure owners for use within their plots, but public ones charge 5/- per use.

Most residents engage in casual unskilled and semi-skilled jobs and self-employment in small scale enterprises earning up to kshs 200 per day while a few are on formal employment. Unemployment and crime are common concerns in the area.

We managed to see just under 500 patients with various dental conditions but mostly dental caries and gum disease. 65% were adults and 35% were children. One patient was visually impaired. Some came as early as 7am. At the beginning of the camp we had a 20 minute presentation on good oral health promotion. Toothpastes and toothbrushes were distributed. The Henry Schein Screening and Exam materials were very useful in the clinical examination and extraction procedures.

We join the children to say Thank You to the Henry Schein Cares Foundation.

Saturday 23rd February 2013: Lady Northey Children’s Dental Clinic, Nairobi 

By Dr. Stephen Irungu, Chief Dental Officer, Ministry of Medical Services

The donations of examination and screening supplies from the Henry Schein Cares Foundation were used to treat children at Lady Northey Children’s Dental Clinic that attends to patients from all over, mostly the disadvantaged population. The clinic attends to seventy patients in a day on the average, and treatment is free.

The main treatment is oral health education, diagnosis, and extractions. Those who require specialized treatment are referred to University or Kenyatta National Hospital dental clinics.

Dr. Jennifer Ober, Paedondontist, and I express our appreciation to the Henry Schein Cares Foundation for the much needed supplies that we used at the clinic to help the people there.

Thursday, February 28, 2013: Umoja 1 Primary School, Nairobi

By Dr. Regina Mutave, Community and Preventive Dentistry, University of Nairobi School of Dental Sciences and Kenya Dental Association Council Member

The School of Dental Sciences, University of Nairobi trains dental students at both undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications. As part of the training, undergraduate students undertake community outreach programs as a learning experience and to provide service to the communities.

The Dental School through a Kenya Dental Association partnership with Rotary International District 5160 of the United States of America received donations of disposable mouth mirrors, gloves, facemasks, penlights, dental floss, and bibs all from the Henry Schein Cares Foundation.   These were enough to cater for a population of 50 individuals.

Accompanied by two undergraduate students, I visited Umoja 1 Primary School located in the Eastlands area of Nairobi, one of the low-socioeconomic areas in the city.   This is a public school for about 1200 children aged between 4 years to 14 years.  It is a day primary school, and children are drawn from the neighboring area.

During this visit, 62 children in the pre-school group aged between 4-6 years received dental education together with their teachers.   Seventeen children in this age group were examined. Another 58 children in the age group 12-14 years also received dental education, and 33 of them received dental examination. Several treatment needs were identified including dental caries, gum disease, crowding and hypoplastic enamel.

We wish to thank the Henry Schein Cares Foundation for their kind gesture that enabled the Kenya Smiles University team to reach the less privileged with the oral health messages, advice, and examinations.