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Week one of our 2016 clinicians volunteering with Bridge2Aid in Tanzania

As well as having Cancer Research UK as our annual charity of the year, we work very closely with clinical charity Bridge2Aid, who work to strengthen local healthcare systems – specifically by training local healthcare workers in the provision of emergency dental treatment in some of the poorest communities in the world.

One of the fantastic things mydentist does as part of it's partnership is sponsor and fully fund two of our clinicians every year to travel to Tanzania and provide vital emergency dental training to clinical officers. The submissions came in thick this year, but after much deliberation, we chose dentist's Laura-Anna Johnston from our Dundee Fintry practice and Yasmin Mehta from our Leicester practice.

Training is now half way through and the Bridge2Aid programme resumes today after a much deserved day off yesteday, with the teams having treated over 550 patients last week. So, here's an update of what they got up to on week one of their journey ...

Laura-Anne, Yasmin and the other volunteers from practices across the UK landed in Dar, Tanzania last Monday, and after a day of orientation, began their training of the clinical officers on Wednesday. 

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The day the team arrived

The clinical officers who work in the rural health centres in Tanzania will have just two weeks to learn the basics of emergency dental skills from our clinicians. Receiving the initial theory training as they start their journey to being competent to work on their own and extract teeth safely.  They will study the anatomy of a tooth and the structure of individual teeth.  They are introduced to health and disease in the oral cavity, taught to recognise when teeth need to be treated and shown the consequences of tooth removal. They will learn the basics of external and intra-oral examination, and the theory behind extracting teeth - the reasons, indications and contra-indications and the instruments they will be using. Day one is an intensive day for the Clinical Officers as they are introduced to the training programme and the world of dental terminology, the programme is extremely rigorous, and although the Clinical Officers have a great deal of general medical knowledge already, each of them is on a steep learning curve!   The skills that Bridge2Aid and the clinicians will be passing on during the training means that basic dental provision will be available in these areas for the long-term future.

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Laura-Anne and Yasmin, along with the rest of the volunteers earlier this morning

Today, the Clinical Officers will learn about medical problems relating to dentistry such as diabetes, anaemia, clotting disorders and how to deal with medical emergencies such as faints and collapsed patients. The dentists will be stepping back from their hands-on role as the Clinical Officers will start providing complete patient care, taking the patient from start to finish with verbal assistance only.

 Tomorrow, the Clinical Officers will take their final written exam (although their mentors will continue to make assessments) and the final overall assessment whether Clinical Officers have completed training successfully will be made on Wednesday.  The last few days of training consolidate what the clinical officers have already learnt, reiterating safe practice and reinforcing the scope of their skills.

Already, the Clinical Officers are demonstrating some really strong clinical skills, they have been extracting teeth whilst being closely observed and monitored by the training dentists, with verbal direction where needed.  It is just as important to learn how to recognise when an extraction is beyond their clinical ability and needs to be referred to the District Dental Officer.

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The Sakura Health Centre where the teams are spending the second week of their training. This is situated with a Village hub and will be a 45 minute journey for the team. As the health centre is at the centre of the Village, it will make walking access good for the local community.

We'll keep you posted with updates, with an interview with the dentists once they arrive home.

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