A GROUP of local dental professionals heads to Bangladesh next week.
The group joins up with a larger group from Loma Linda University in California and at least one local dentist, Dr. Vincent Drouin, has gone to the country to work on people’s teeth before.
Drouin graduated from the university and says he and his employees are the dental team that’s part of the larger medical team of about 30 travelling overseas.
The three dentists from his office plus two hygienists and one dental assistant are going as well as Drouin’s dad, who’s a registered nurse. Loma Linda has been going overseas at the rate of 30 trips per year for 20 years, but the Bangladesh trip has only been around for four or five years now, said Drouin.
“I’ve been there twice so a lot of dental work is needed. Most of their teeth are pretty bad. A lot, most of them, are not well-educated and I don’t know if you’ve heard of beetle nut juice [that] they chew on,” he said. “It destroys their teeth and causes a lot of mouth cancer and a lot of the kids do it too so we try to educate them on that.”
The beetle nut destroys the bone and their gums too, he added.
Some people there look down on someone who has white teeth, he said.
“So this stuff makes their teeth black and brown so they like it,” said Drouin.
The team will be staying in an old school that’s not being used and the classrooms will become rooms for oral surgery, cleanings, fillings and for different parts of the medical work, he said.
Drouin went there as a dental student and this group will be taking students too. Part of the job is supervising the students, he said.
“Usually about half of them [go for] dental experience,” he said, adding it can be put on a resume.
“[We try] to help them (Bangladesh residents) and try to educate them. We try to go back to build up some kind of rapport so people start to know who we are there. It’s not just a one time thing. We try to maintain what we started and we’re also there to help out.”
The group assists a dentist in Bangladesh for that one week as he otherwise does dental work by himself, said Drouin.
“He has a little dental clinic and works there just enough to make money,” he said.
To pay for the trip, Drouin and his office held free days where everyone’s wages for that day would be donated to help pay for the trip.
The team will land in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, and the dentist there will take them about six hours away, he said.
“Both times I’ve been there, it’s the middle of nowhere but it’s still really crowded, but not like in town. You’re just in the bush and there’s people everywhere,” said Drouin.
“It’s the most populated place in the world so there’s nowhere where there’s nobody.
“It’s packed everywhere but most of the country is just like little huts in the forest everywhere so we’re at the school in one of those places and people from everywhere just come.
“One year, my first year there, we had a little boy five or six and he ran for two days or a day and a half on his own. He ran over because he had a toothache so word gets around and by the end of the week, hundreds, if not thousands were waiting in the line.”
The team goes to one of the academies there and picks up about 25 students who act as translators so almost everyone on the trip has his or here own personal translator, said Drouin.
“We don’t have time to learn the language so that ends up being a big part of the help we get,” he said.
And other locals are interested in going with him. “We’ve had a few people from other dental offices ask if we ever went again, if they could join us, so probably we will try to go every other year or so,” he said.
The team heads to Bangladesh March 16 to 25.