Dental Volunteering in Morocco – 2

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Today we curve our way back down the slope to Marrakech. We’ll watch the village of Asni diminish in size until it looks like randomly perched LEGO blocks in various shades of terracotta.

Most of this team is heading home but three of us will have a rest tonight in a hotel before meeting up with the next team for Essaouira. Though we triaged 800 patients and treated 700 of them, it was tough to turn some away and close the gate on the final day. The rest will visit the village dispensary for advice; resort to the market dentist or wait to see us next year.

We communicated with patients via interpreters however it is immediately obvious when someone is in severe pain or afraid. My hand was gripped for comfort by everyone – even adult Arabic males (which surprised me). We lost count of how many teeth were extracted.

A young public health nurse in the making

Children jostled for attention and it was easy to spot the bright eyes of a mischievous boy who tried to come for a second round of fluoride treatment! The young teenage daughter of an official hung around on the first day, sometimes getting in the way. When I asked her to help me in the ‘fluoride room’ she immediately took her task seriously – a public health nurse in the making I am sure. She lead the children into the room; introduced them by name and demonstrated how to properly brush teeth using our ginormous mouth model (after I had given her a lesson). I was able then to concentrate on applying the fluoride – so necessary to strengthen enamel and give their teeth a fighting chance of surviving acid attack. 

Health and habit changes rarely have a single solution

Moroccans do not starve. Food is cheap and togetherness happens around a table laden with delicious meals. Who can fault that?! If you accept someone’s hospitality you are expected to stay for the entire 2 hours or so of meal time. And drinking 3 cups of tea is a minimum – no problem for me!! Getting up part way through a meal is considered impolite. They eat a wide range of meat, vegetables, fruit, eggs and bread flavoured with a variety of spices. Though delicious, one culprit appears in a LOT of dishes … sugar.

Children fall asleep around the family meal, are lovingly covered by a blanket,  and left for the night. How to interject that habit with tooth brushing before bed is a major educational dilemma. Health and habit changes rarely have a single solution so there is much to be pondered to ensure dental care is totally effective. 

For now I’m thinking sleep – the exhaustion has set in.

(This is a diary excerpt from April. I went with the organisation Dental Mavericks.)

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