“Just the name ‘dentist’ will scare all patients; [going to see a dentist] It will be terrifying for all patients,” said Dr. William Waura, a dentist who is part of the oral surgery team at the National Referral Hospital (NRH).
In an attempt to alleviate the shared concern of dental patients around the world, Lt. Cmdr. Alice-Anne Alcorn, a US Navy dentist with PP 22, shared ideas on how practicing good oral hygiene during pregnancy, as a toddler, during adolescence and as an adult can help prevent trips unwanted at the dentist.
“Dental health is not a priority for many people. They only seek dental treatment when they have complaints, especially when they experience pain or discomfort. However, when they do seek dental treatment, queues are often too long and appointment times can take 1-4 weeks,” said Dr Mishella Tutua, NRH Dental Officer.
“So our top priority is to educate people about the importance of good oral health.”
To this end, dental health professionals in the Solomon Islands implemented several ongoing educational strategies. One line of effort focuses on reaching children or students in schools, where dentists promote oral hygiene and preventive dental treatments. In addition, oral health messages are broadcast on national radio.
An upcoming initiative creatively capitalizes on a popular event in the Solomon Islands.
Tutua says they hope to reach parents of very young children during the next World Cup. She and her teammates have arranged to include television broadcasts on how to take care of children’s teeth during the game. She believes that this initiative will attract a large audience, as this event arouses a lot of interest among Solomon Islanders.
Despite the best efforts of dental professionals and parents, cavities can occur; pain may develop and teeth may decay.
To help prevent tooth decay from spreading to other parts of the mouth, Alcorn introduced SIDA members to silver diamine fluoride, or SDF.
The solution basically “stops” cavities from growing and infecting other teeth. The best part: It’s a pain-free treatment that helps stop the discomfort, so patients in both the Solomon Islands and the United States may be open to trying it.
“I came across this new product in the market that is very conducive for use in rural areas,” Waura said.
“It’s very easy to use.”
He adds that he would test it on patients, if the product were available.
During the Pacific Partnership, you may have the opportunity to use SDF. Alcorn says that in the coming days, when the combined team of dentists sees patients, some local dentists will have the opportunity to use SDF, as she and the PP22 team brought some.
He described the benefits, side effects, and how to administer the product so that when they start seeing patients, everyone is prepared.
“We want to maximize the time we spend together, so we’re doing this subject matter expert exchange now. That way, we can be more productive when we’re meeting and treating patients,” Alcorn said.
“The Pacific Partnership is about building relationships with other health professionals, exploring how we can learn from each other so that together we can make our communities healthier.”
According to SIDA, the two-hour discussion provided Solomon Islands dentists who attended with continuing education credits.
“We don’t often have visiting dentists here. This is an opportunity to learn new things [Alcorn’s] experience and expertise,” Tutua said.
“Dentistry is changing all the time. It’s good for us to learn new things and new ways to prevent and treat dental disease.”
Now in its 17th year, Pacific Partnership is the annual multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster preparedness mission in the Indo-Pacific.
In Honiara, the Pacific Partnership 2022 team is made up of representatives from Australia, Japan and the United States. PP22 events are coordinated with the host nation and planned based on Solomon Islands requirements and requests. Engagements in Honiara will include medical assistance and exchanges, engineering projects, discussions on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and community outreach events, including band concerts.
PP22 is conducting missions throughout Oceania and the Western Pacific, having completed visits to Vietnam, Palau and the Republic of the Philippines.