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Australians advancing oral health in Vanuatu

Smile Vanuatu – North Malekula Island 2018 – July 3rd – 7th

Volcanic ash and flight delays did not deter nine volunteers from Bathurst, Brisbane and Rockhampton arriving on north Malekula Island in Vanuatu. Their purpose is the setup of temporary dental clinics and offering their services to help the school-based communities around the Norsup and Tautu village.

The team worked with local hospital and dental staff to provide oral health education, toothbrushing instruction, screening, examinations and emergency treatment. By the end of their trip, thirty-three teachers and five hundred and eleven children received a toothbrush, oral health lesson, demonstration on toothbrushing technique and a check-up. 30% of those seen were also referred for follow-up treatment.

As English is the second or third language to many children on Malekula Island, visual posters in the local language, active participation and demonstration with local support staff became vital to communicating the importance of dental care.

This year’s program invited a speech pathologist to join the team to help identify and diagnose tongue tie attachments in patients. Past programs identified the prevalence of children with tongue tie which can affect feeding in young babies, difficulties relating to speech, dental decay and misalignment of the jaw. The hospital manager and staff in the area have welcomed this added support from the program.

The Smile Vanuatu Australian volunteer dental program continues to grow with trust and commitment from all stakeholders and we wish to thank everyone involved. The benefits of the programs servicing the area are evident by the Vanuatu Ministry of Health’s continued investment in dental health through employment, additional local resources and dental facility upgrades.

The toothbrushes, dental equipment and instruments required for this trip were donated by Colgate, children from Chevallum State primary school in Queensland, Henry Schein and Single Use Dental Instruments.

If you too would like to provide assistance or volunteer with Smile Vanuatu, you can find more detailed information here:

To find out more about the other charities and organisations we work with, view our Charities page.