This year’s Ghana Health Team embarked on yet another mission this weekend. As we wish them a safe and successful trip, I thought I would blog about a couple of our previous trips to Africa. When I first went to Ghana as part of the 2008 team, most of the locals had never seen a dentist before. Without accessible and affordable dental care in the northern regions of Ghana, its hard to describe the extreme dental need that we saw without some pictures.
By far, the most common problems that we saw were severe gum disease and broken teeth. When a tooth breaks and is not repaired, the inner part of the tooth (dentin) is more susceptible to cavities. Over time, the cavity grows larger and can eventually kill the nerve of the tooth, which leads to an abscess or infection. So invariably, every time we saw a broken tooth, it was accompanied by an abcess. We later learned that one of the reasons why broken teeth may be so prevalent in the local population is because it is common practice to chew and eat bones (eg. chicken bones) for nourishment. Those who were fortunate enough to be seen by the team during the two week missions were able to receive treatment. But what about the others who would break their teeth a week or a month after we left? They would have to wait another year before the team returned to set up a clinic again. We must never take for granted the health care system that we have in Canada.
If you would like to receive updates on the progress of this year’s team, visit http://grid-nea.org/category/teams
– Dr. Michael Banh