Dental nurse Sinead O’Reagan talks about Dental Mavericks in Lebanon
As part of its Dentistry in unusual environments series Eschmann hears from dental nurse Sinead O’Regan about her work with Dental Mavericks in Lebanon. The UK-based charity has a fully functional clinic in Bekaa Valley, which it uses to deliver care to families in need and as a base to treat patients in a nearby refugee camp and orphanage.
Dental Mavericks also works in Morocco and Greece to provide a range of treatments to deprived communities. Here, Sinead talks about her work with the charity…
“When Dental Mavericks set up its permanent surgery in Bekaa Valley in June 2018, I joined the team of volunteers to offer my assistance as a dental nurse and help set up a number of the policies and procedures.” Until that point, she says, their work in Lebanon was carried out in pop-up camps or temporary structures. Now up and running, the clinic opens between 9.00am and 3.00pm six days a week, and two evenings a week the team goes out to the refugee camp and the local orphanage until about 8.00pm.
“As part of the preparations, I helped to implement all the necessary infection control protocols in line with both Lebanon standards, and those expected in high-performance countries such as the UK and Australia.
“The clinic operates with a dirty to clean workflow and guidelines are in place for everything from hand hygiene to the use and disposal of personal protective equipment (PPE). There are also clear protocols for the disinfection and sterilisation of instruments.
“When out in the refugee camp or orphanage, the infection control procedures vary slightly due to the nature of the environments, but in essence the same rules apply and the same standard is required. So, for instance, the chair – which when on location is a foldable massage chair for convenience – is wiped down between every patient, as are all reusable equipment, glasses and so on.
“As we would in the dental practice, we also clean our hands and change PPE between each patient.” Sinead explained that erecting a temporary pop-up surgery is not without its difficulties; no matter how efficient the protocols are.
“The biggest challenge is the lack of facilities and equipment available to us. It means we have to be exceptionally prepared for the day ahead. To help with this, I put a template checklist in place – so if the team know they’re going to be seeing 50 patients that day, they can pack all the appropriate tools and materials that they’re going to need for that trip.”
Dental Pain and serious oral health issues
Sinead continued: “After use, everything is then placed in disinfectant fluid inside a sealable container, which gets transported back to the clinic to be disinfected and sterilised in the morning before the surgery reopens. For best practice we use a washer disinfector, but we also manually clean all instruments before disinfection and before the autoclave cycle to ensure ultimate compliance.”
The other main barrier for the Dental Mavericks volunteers is language. But that challenge is also overcome, as Sinead explains: “Between assistance from a language coordinator and the clinic staff based in Lebanon full-time – as well as our own knowledge of the dialect – we are able to communicate well with the patients that we see.”
Across all sites, Dental Mavericks provides a range of treatments to patients of all ages from fluoride application and fissure sealants to emergency extractions. Where more complex care is needed, such as root canal therapy, patients will be referred to the clinic.
“We treat a lot of patients for dental pain and other serious oral health issues,” says Sinead, “but our main goal is prevention and oral health education, as a number of our patients have never received proper oral hygiene instruction. That’s why we also teach all our patients the correct brushing technique and provide toothbrushes and toothpaste for those that don't have them.”
As part of this initiative, Dental Mavericks takes great care to follow up with patients and uses data collection and mapping to make sure that care is being delivered appropriately and working effectively.
All in all it’s a huge operation, but with generous donations and the help of volunteers like Sinead, Dental Mavericks is able to deliver a high standard of care to patients in need, whilst maintaining a high level of compliance and infection control.
If you’d like to volunteer with Dental Mavericks, call 0113 8270160.
For more information about the range of decontamination equipment and products from EschmannDirect,
please visit www.eschmann.co.uk or call 01903 753322
Sinead O’Regan is a dental nurse and infection control lead currently working in Ireland. She qualified in 2009 before going to work in New Zealand for a year and then Australia for nine years. Alongside her work, Sinead has dedicated her time to a number of volunteering programmes over the years; most recently joining the UK based charity, Dental Mavericks.