Donated STATIM helps Canadian team provide dental care in Haiti

Reliable sterilization is a key building block in the devastated region’s ongoing battle for oral health.

“In Port au Prince alone, there were 30 dental clinics that were destroyed,” says Dr. Stewart Gillies, a St. John’s Newfoundland dentist preparing for his third trip and second mission to Haiti, this time arranging for his Canadian International Dental Foundation (CIDF) team to bring along a STATIM 2000.

Haiti dental health worst in West

Even before the earthquake, dental health in this Caribbean nation was easily among the worst in the western hemisphere, stemming from a combination of abject poverty and a shortage of dentists.

Most Haitian’s make less than $2 a day, so a visit to a dentist is almost always an emergency preceded by possibly many months of chronic pain. Fillings are expensive and tooth extractions common.

Setting up temporary clinics

Working with the Cap Haitien Dental Institute, Dr. Gillies’ team travelled an area on the north coast setting up temporary clinics – one in a judo hall – and learning to adapt to the circumstances.

“We would excavate cavities by hand and trim enamel edges with chisels, then place glass ionomer cements” he recalls. This technique, called atraumatic restorative therapy, provides limited care for many and was developed by the World Health Organization.

Of course infection control was also a challenge.

High HIV requires reliable sterilization

In a country recently challenged by a cholera epidemic and where the UN estimates some 200,000 people are infected with HIV, a reliable means of sterilization is essential.

“You can’t go into a country like that and really help without being able to offer sterilization because you could be trading one problem for another,” says Dr. Gillies, “but providing sterile conditions is always a challenge.”

More missions in 2012

As the CIDF’s activities grow, new missions are in the works. One in January of 2012 will take a team of five dentists, two hygenists, three assistants, and a technician to Bassin-Bleu, near the South coast.
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