Dr Darren Weiss outlines the child oral health promotion project in San Juan de Rio Coco, Nicaragua, 2016
In the northern Nicaraguan coffee producing community, San Juan de Rio Coco, over 80% of the children suffer from tooth decay. The dentistry available there is limited to extractions. Seeds for Progress, a local organisation committed to advancing education in the schools, invited the Humble Smile Foundation and the International Association of Dental Students (IADS) to come and help. Humble Seeds team, which consisted of volunteer dental students from around the world together with local dentists and facilitators, was deployed into the community.
The people welcomed the team into their homes, kitchens and school with open arms, allowing the dental students to figure out the cause of the high child tooth decay – the availability of foods and beverages with added sugar – and then design and implement a sustainable preventive school program.
The program included nutritional education and intervention. The team got busy training teachers, meetings with the parents, providing advocacy and instituting tooth brushing into the daily school routine. Over 600 children were screened for oral disease, and hundreds of cavities were treated with silver diamine fluoride.
The bad news is that our survey and interviews revealed that a significant number of kids felt discomfort with their teeth, had difficulties with biting hard foods, avoided smiling and missed school because of problems with their teeth.
The good news is that they get a second chance at prevention with the eruption of their permanent teeth, thanks to our sponsors: Humble Brush; Plaque HD; Premier; Elevate Oral Care and Colgate.
Our work in Nicaragua reflects our global vision, which is to help prevent suffering caused by oral disease. We do this by promoting effective oral health initiatives anywhere unmet needs are great.
Dr Weiss is a dentist and President of the Humble Smile Foundation.