Providing dentistry to underprivileged children in Tanzania

This summer, Dr. Abbas Fazel, an adjunct faculty member at the Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ASDOH) and a Board member of K2Adventures Foundation, a non-profit 501©3 organization,  and five dental students from ASDOH headed to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.  This was a humanitarian mission trip, the purpose of which was to provide much needed dental treatment to children at an orphanage and school in the town of Moshi (Mwereni Integrated School and Orphanage).  Most of the children at the orphanage are blind, albino or have an autosomal recessive genetic disorder called XP (xeroderma pigmentosum) which makes their skin very sensitive to sunlight.  These children developed skin tumors frequently and have a very short life span. None of them had ever seen a dentist and many of them were in dire need of dental care.

K2 Adventures was able to raise funds to build and equip this dental clinic in the grounds of the school.  The project was completed in April of 2012 and the first team of students from ASDOH travelled to Tanzania in June of 2012.  The group comprised of Dr. Fazel and five ASDOH dental students including Nadia Fazel (D3), Sarah Usher (D3), Erin Aying (D3), Nipa Patel (D4), and Abrahim Caroci (D4).  Dustin Usher, an information technology expert who works at ASDOH, also accompanied the team and set up a networking of 25 computers that were donated to the school and was able to provide the children with internet access.

After speaking with the headmaster of the school, the group learned that there are less than 500 dentists for over 45 million Tanzanians. The dental students were able to screen 100% of the orphans at the school and were able to perform much needed dental care that included cleanings, fillings, extractions and pulpotomies.  Many of these children have “mottling” of their teeth (including their front teeth) due to excessive fluoride intake in their diet.  These teeth were treated cosmetically which made the children very appreciative and happy to smile again!  Once the orphans were taken care of, we started screening and treating the children at the school.  The dental group kept a record of all the students that were screened, categorized them from preventive to urgent care, took their photos, and noted if they needed more treatment. The goal of the data was to maintain sustainability, so that future and current dentists that visit the school will have the data to continue treatment for the children.

One of the biggest rewards was to give dental care to the children, mainly with special needs. The group gave dental care to children with XP disease, and learned from a local Tanzanian dermatologist that it is unlikely that they will live past 30 years due to the exposure to sunlight. The school faculty gives the children hats and long sleeves to prevent sun exposure to their skin. Other children that were treated were albino. The group learned that the albino children were hunted and slaughtered because their bones are thought to provide medical cures.  Though this practice has been abolished and the children are protected, they still live in fear of their lives.  Currently the school is building a wall around the premises to further protect the children. Although some of the children are blind, they are still very happy and a pleasure to be around. The dental group learned a lot from the children and hopes that more dentists will step up and volunteer in the efforts of providing much needed dental care to the children at Mwereni.

K2 Adventures and Dr. Fazel are hoping to bring back dentists and dental students more frequently to Tanzania. If you would like to participate on this dental service trip, please contact Dr. Fazel at afazel@atsu.edu, Kevin keving@k2adventures.org, or Kristen at Kristen@k2adventures.org.

~Erin Aying, Arizona ‘14

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Comments (4)

  1. Ivana Ridzon Yazbek

    You’ve done all such a wonderful service for these children. Thank you for sharing. I would love to travel to Moshi and improve the lives of children. Did you have a chance to visit Kilimanjaro at all?

    Reply
  2. Erin A.

    Hi Ivana!

    The dental students did not get to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro since we were spending most of our time in the dental clinic. However, we did see an epic view from our hotel roof and even the dental clinic site! It’s absolutely majestic! I would love to go back one day and climb Mt. Kilimanjaro since it is the highest summit in Africa! I had an amazing experience and was so impressed how organized everything was. Dr. Fazel, Kevin, and Kristen are definitely looking for dentists, dental students, or dental professionals to go back more frequently. Please contact them at:

    afazel@atsu.edu, Kevin keving@k2adventures.org, or Kristen at Kristen@k2adventures.org

    Reply
  3. Ivana Ridzon Yazbek

    Thank you Erin. I am certainly going to contact them now. Kindly, Ivana

    Reply
  4. martina

    please am a student taking dental therapist can i come along on your next project

    Reply

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