Volunteer Dental Team led by John:
Renae Liddell Dental Assistant, Perth, Western Australia
Jodie Billinger Student Dental Hygienist, Adelaide, South Australia
John Denton Retired Dentist, Adelaide, South Australia
Our small team set out from Kopan Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal, bright and early one morning, full of excitement at the prospect of the journey ahead of us.
Renae was new to dental volunteering, but had an appetite for adventure, and a joy of life, and the experience of years of Dental Assisting and organisation, which made her ideal for the job.
Jodie, an old hand at dental volunteering and an experience world traveller was always there when needed and willing and able to pitch in.
John was present when the Chailsa Dental Project was first started with Jude Allsopp and George Manos in 2016 and was happy to return to the wonderful people at Chailsa.
The journey from Kathmandu to Chailsa was a challenge, only 260 kilometres, but it took more than 12 hours in a light 2WD SUV.
We eventually made it up the hill to Chailsa, after dark, tired but exhilarated, having pushed the jeep up the last few hundred meters on a very muddy track!
The Mt. Everest Lower Secondary School is adjacent to our monastery and provides the bulk of our patients. There are 170 students ranging from grade 1 to intermediate.
Part of the school is a hostel which acts as a boarding house for 50 or so youngsters from broken homes or for students who live too far away to commute each day. The hostel is run by a lovely caring Buddhist nun, Tenzing. The older students, the teenagers, help look after the younger students in a beautiful big brother and big sister way.
We were able to see about 120 students and monks during our week there and treat the dreaded caries as best we could.
We were very gratified to see improvements in the children who had first come to our clinic 3 years ago. Many of our restorative interventions were still in place and the children’s enthusiasm for tooth brushing was a joy to see.
We noted our use of silver fluoride, to arrest dental caries in primary dentition teeth, over the last 2 visits, was significant in holding space for new adult teeth to erupt and minimised the need for active intervention with drilling and filling.
One afternoon, while working away in our clinic, and noticing it getting increasingly cold, we were hit by a hailstorm which covered the whole place with 50mm of ice! Not only that, our Gompa next door, was hit by lightening and the power went off with a flash of sparks from our power point! Very exciting, until we went to our dormitory rooms and found our sleeping gear wet from a leaking roof during the freak storm.
The week went very quickly, we were well fed and looked after, we were able to climb our hill above the monastery and catch a glimpse of Mt. Everest, not 70 kilometres away. We made a difference to the people who came to see us. We will remember our time at Chailsa with great affection.
Dr John Denton