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With only 2 Government Dentists… 80% of Sierra Leoneans have teeth problems

The Oral Health Department at the Connaught Hospital is probably among the busiest surgical rooms as there are always queues in and around the building, up to the surgical room where one of the only two government dentists, Dr. Patric Don-Davies, Chief Dental Officer of the Oral Health Department performs operations for the removal of teeth and overall oral dental care.
In an exclusive interview with Awoko, Dr. Davies who was still wearing his green surgical attires, with ear loop tied across his nose and both hands in gloves, he fondly stated but certainly true that “I never get less busy as long as I am in this surgical room.”
In my presence, Dr. Davies removed the teeth of eleven people, excluding the replacement of teeth and cure to congenital dental and oral problems.
He said the running of the department is a serious task considering the influx of patients suffering from took ache, fractured mandibles, cleft lips and palate and other mode of dentures for those who lose their teeth.
He said teeth ache is a worldwide problem that is affecting majority of people. “In particularly Sierra Leone, 80% of the people have teeth problems that lead to either extractions or fillings” he said.
Dr. Davies stated that the aim of the department is not to take out teeth but because of the nature in which some of the patients come, in some case some lose their teeth as a result of the fact that they are mostly way beyond repairs. He said those that are good enough they try to repair them by either doing ordinary fillings, root treatment or crowns as the case may be.
Even though it would seem that oral health does not fall under free health care but categorically it was observed that people with cleft lips and palate are under five children, who go as early as three months for surgery to be done on them. Pregnant women and lactating mothers also visit the department for such cases, especially for removal and general teeth care.
Practical example evident by this reporter was the case of Mariatu Bangura whose daughter, Adamsay Kanu had a cleft palate and had to undergo operation at the oral health department for free since her daughter was less than one year old.
Dr. Davies revealed that the causes of teeth ache are primarily lack of thorough cleaning and excess sugar in the teeth. He said if the teeth are not brushed properly leaving deposits in them, tooth ache can be derived from that. Whereas if excess sticky sugar is allowed in the groove of the teeth, the bacteria that would feed on that sugar will produce an acid which will subsequently melt the enamel and would result to teeth ache.
He said few of the remedies for tooth ache is the use of fluoride which is derived from toothpaste, water, milk, sea food and in some other cases it can be applied in the tooth through some filling materials like Fuji-9, which he said, is also very effective.
Dr. said that tooth ache can also lead to bad breath (halitosis) together with eating very hot food, eating too much of pepper and sinusitis are also other causes of bad breath.
He said the cure to bad breath is to remove the teeth and find treatment for sinuses. In the case of the others, he said “you desist from eating too much of pepper and hot food.”
Dr. Davies pointed out that there are only two of them in the country working for government and that they need more workforce to further improve the department in the country. The two dentists, he said are all based in Freetown. At the moment he said they just need middle-level manpower to enhance their work.
Dr. Davies noted that people in the provinces are also desperately in need of dental treatment. He recalled that last year, a team of Mercy Ship Dental surgeons went to Makeni for just two days and they were able to do 1,750 extractions which he said is an indicator that there is need for more dentists to facilitate work and address these problems in other parts of the country.
He said to ensure that they reach out to those in the provinces they operate mobile clinics and try to solve some of their problems.
He said the art of dentistry is an international training since dentists are not professionally trained in the country. He said that to facilitate this requires funding and they are working on modalities to see how that would work in the nearest possible time.
He said to operate dentistry is very expensive as the chair alone on which surgical operation is done costs more than five thousand dollars, excluding the other necessary materials and equipment that have to be incurred.
Dr. Davies said even as they operate the department, there are patients who come to remove their teeth but do not have money and as a result they would have to consider the cost that would fit their pockets and help them get treatment.
Recently Dr. Davies was encountered with problems relating to cancer of the mouth involving a man and a woman. Both cases appear very terrible to the point that the woman’s own case cannot be handled in Sierra Leone because of its severity and has been referred abroad. But the man is admitted in the hospital undergoing serious treatment.
By Poindexter Sama

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