Promoting dental health in slums and rural areas

Students at a government school in Mohali, Punjab, receive new toothbrush and paste under Project Smile.
Students at a government school in Mohali, Punjab, receive new toothbrush and paste under Project Smile.

What comes to mind when you think about your dental care? asks Dr Hemank Mehta, a dentist from the Indian Dental Association (IDA), Mohali, Punjab, who was part of Project Smile, a Rotaract District 3080 initiative to help create awareness on oral health and hygiene. “If you want to keep your teeth healthy be vigilant in your dental care. This message is easy to understand for one who follows oral hygiene. But when you reach out to people living in the slums or a rural area you need to do more than just an awareness talk,” he adds.

In partnership with the IDA, 140 Rotaract clubs from RID 3080 conducted 42 dental camps at slums and rural locations to test and treat close to 5,000 people most of them being children. The project included talks in each village on oral hygiene and infections, and helping the community identify a qualified dentist they could go to for dental care. DRR Shubham ­Goyal who conceptualised Project Smile says, “We have IDA data showing that there is a lack of awareness about oral diseases and the impact of good oral hygiene on overall health and well-being among the underprivileged community. This initiative was meant to address this need and I am glad that it’s brought all the Rotaract clubs of the district together and we could reach out to so many needy people.”

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Losing teeth, says Dr Mehta, “limits what can be eaten, compromising nutrition and affects general health. Pain from toothache affects normal day-to-day activities and bacteria from gum disease can infect the bloodstream and cause other illnesses, ranging from inflammation to heart ­disease. But since the awareness is poor not many people seem to care.”

He points out that “many patients at the camp had ­cavities, gum disease, infections in their mouths. In many of these cases the dental issues can be avoided with a simple ­toothbrush and toothpaste.” He and his team conducted procedures, including, fillings, gum treatment, scaling and polishing, and surgical extractions. Few were referred to the IDA, Mohali, for root canal and emergency procedures.

In addition to this, dental kits were given out at all the camps and Rotaractors sensitised the patients on oral health and hygiene and the best practices.

Under the theme Service to Mankind: By the community, For the community, clubs in the district carried out various activities.

Rotaractors of RAC Sardar Bhagwan Singh University with the clothes collected for the distribution drive
Rotaractors of RAC Sardar Bhagwan Singh University with the clothes collected for the distribution drive

RAC Chandigarh ­Himalayan organised a sanitation kit donation drive. Over 100 kits were distributed to children from Harryson Model School, ­Mattaur. Rotaractors also spoke to the children on the ­importance of personal hygiene, use of mask and social distancing.

Under its initiative Pause for Paws, RAC DAV Dental College fed stray animals and organised a food donation drive at a slum area. Ration packets included 30kg of rice, dal, wheat flour, sugar and tea packets. Samosas and noodles were also given to the kids in the area.

RAC Soaring Monks, in collaboration with RAC Thane North End, Mumbai, through its Spread a Bite initiative distributed food to the needy.

RAC Chandigarh Shivalik encouraged every club member to do a random act of kindness. While some Rotaractors chose to donate food or money to the underprivileged, some gave their domestic help a day off or lent them a helping hand. Club members shared their experiences on social media.

A dental check-up camp for students.
A dental check-up camp for students.

RAC Sardar Bhagwan Singh University, through its Mission Good Will, donated clothes in the slums of Dehradun. RAC Shivalik Spectrum spread happiness through the medium of art. Members donated crayons, pencils, erasers and drawing sheets to over 150 children from poor economic background. This was followed by a drawing party where the kids used their creativity and imagination to come up with beautiful art work. The event concluded with the distribution of refreshments (banana, fruit juice and chocolates) to the kids.

Members of RAC GNKITM organised a fundraiser for an economically weak family to provide them with ration for two months. A small amount of cash was given to the family for medical expenses and to meet their emergency needs.

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