Palestine trip – December 2016

In December 2016, a group of 10 dental professionals including myself, left the UK for a Christmas with a difference in the West Bank. After a five-and-a-half-hour flight, and a tiresome five hour wait for visas, the group left Tel Aviv for Jerusalem. We awoke to incredible views of Al-Aqsa Mosque, and promptly set off for a walking tour of the city.

Jerusalem team 2016


The following day we visited the Palestinian Dental Association headquarters in Jerusalem where we learnt of the difficulties faced by the dental profession in these times of political and economic uncertainty. We also attended a community fun day event organized by a local charity to support single mothers and children living in poverty. After a whistle-stop tour of Hebron, Jericho and Bethlehem, the group were well-acquainted and ready to start work.


On arrival in Nablus, a city in the north of the West Bank, the team met the owners of three dental practices, based in Nablus, Qalqilya and Salfeet, who had kindly volunteered their private clinics for us to use during our mission. After familiarising ourselves with the clinics, and unpacking our equipment, we celebrated Christmas Day with an Arabic feast, a huge chocolate cake (sugar-free of course!) and an early night.


The following day the team were joined by some local dentists, and in the three clinics we provided dental screening for 218 children, all of whom were living in deprived circumstances and many of whom had lost one or both parents. Most of the children had tooth decay or dental trauma and many had anxiety, having never seen a dentist before. Many children also had learning difficulties or other additional needs. Local social workers arranged appointments for the children to return over the following days for treatment.

The week that followed was a whirlwind of dental treatment. The team provided 390 fissure sealants, 167 fillings, 34 preformed metal crowns and 171 extractions for the children, each of whom received a toothbrushing lesson, a toothbrush and toothpaste, toys and stickers. Word spread about our visit to Nablus, and we were featured on local TV and in the newspaper. We were invited to attend the Nablus branch meeting of the Palestinian Dental Association, and three of us provided lectures to the local dentists, covering the topics of oral surgery, oral medicine and paediatric dentistry.


The team returned to the UK exhausted, but with a huge sense of satisfaction. My eyes have been opened to the suffering experienced by children in this part of the world and the team is already planning the next aid mission. I would urge anybody considering aid work to get involved as it is a truly addictive, life-changing experience.


A big thank you to the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund for their support and to everyone who kindly donated time, equipment and facilities for this aid mission.

By Helen Rogers NIHR Doctoral Research Fellow/Specialty Registrar in Paediatric Dentistry

Kashmir – October 2016

After months of careful planning, preparation and anticipation, team DAN flew out to Pakistan on 6 October 2016 to undertake the charity’s second successive dental aid programme in Kashmir in collaboration with the Kashmir Orphans Relief Trust (KORT). Dental Aid Network (DAN) is a registered British charity that provides dental relief for people around the world. DAN provides oral health education, advice on prevention techniques and offers simple restorative and emergency dental treatment. The devastating earthquake of 8 October 2005 in North East Pakistan claimed the lives of almost 90,000 and displaced more than 3.5 million people in the region. Of the many devastating effects of the earthquake, one problem which arose was the prevalence of children who lost their parents to the earthquake, and as a result had become orphaned.


In October 2016 DAN aimed to provide essential dental treatment for over 200 orphans of KORT, many of whom had never previously seen a dentist, as well as children from a local blind school and a school for children with hearing impairment. The dental mission consisted of six clinical days. The DAN team was supported by a local government hospital in Mirpur who kindly lent us the full time use of four dental surgeries.

The first working day involved screening of all of the KORT children and setting up the dental surgeries. The children were organised into age groups and dental examinations and treatment planning carried out. Treatment appointments were booked for the following days, with priority given to urgent cases. Over the next couple of days, the team worked extremely hard to provide dental treatment for the children. Treatment was varied with provision of periodontal therapy, restorative dentistry and oral surgery. Clinics started at 9 am, and would finish after 5 pm. It was fantastic to see so many of the children completely at ease in the dental chair. It must be said, the children demonstrated a great level of cooperation and compliance with the dental treatment they received. Some of the very young children were understandably anxious, and a range of acclimatisation techniques were deployed for such cases. The entire DAN team could converse in Urdu, which helped greatly in building good rapport with the children.

On the third and fourth days, team DAN treated the children with special needs. Surprisingly, many of the children with visual impairment had excellent levels of oral hygiene and treatment need amongst this group was very low. Team DAN provided oral hygiene and toothbrushing advice on a one-to-one basis.
Team DAN also conducted successful visits to several local public schools to promote oral health. DAN dentists gave presentations on oral hygiene instruction, toothbrushing advice, dietary advice, as well as Q&A sessions on oral health. All of the school children also received written oral health advice in the form of colourful and informative leaflets. For the schools for children with special needs, the team provided individual classroom presentations with the help of the wonderful teachers, who were able to sign all of the instructions on oral health.

The mission wasn’t just about dentistry, as the DAN team socialised with many of the children, providing comic relief for a change! Some of the evenings were spent at the KORT complex, where the dentists enjoyed the company of the kids in games of football, cricket, table tennis as well as a 100 m running race. The British team performed well in the football; however that could not be said for cricket, where the DAN dentists were taught a lesson or two by some very talented youngsters. The mission ended with a very special ceremony organised by the KORT children at the educational complex, which included speeches, music and a scrumptious BBQ to top it all off.

All in all, Project Kashmir 2016 was a very productive and successful mission which we were
all proud to be part of.

By Dr Zohaib Khan BDS (Liverpool) MFDS RCS Ed