Adam Jones travels to Tanzania to train Clinical Officers in Oral Surgery

Adam Jones, our Academic Clinical Fellow in Oral Surgery has recently returned from a teaching programme in Tanzania, supported by the OPT IN bursary scheme.

Dental caries resulting in pain and infection is one of the most common non-communicable preventable diseases worldwide. In the UK there is one dentist for every 2000 people. In Tanzania this increases to one dentist for 128,000 people. In Malawi there are 38 dentists in a country of approximately 18 million. These huge ratios mean that access to basic dental treatment is extremely limited and as a result pain and suffering with a dental cause is very common and prolonged, often up to several years before treatment is received.

Bridge2Aid is a UK-based dental development charity which partners with a Tanzanian NGO, EH4ALL, to deliver sustainable training programmes in basic Oral Surgery to healthcare professionals in Tanzania, and soon Malawi. These ‘Clinical Officers’ have a medical background, similar to that of a Physician Associate in the UK, but no prior dental training or experience. They embark on a two-week intensive training programme which, if completed to a satisfactory standard, enables them to offer basic pain-relieving dental surgery in their often remote communities where otherwise no service would be available.

Adam visited the Kibiti region of Tanzania south of Dar Es Salaam, working with the Regional Dental Officer and helped train six Clinical Officers in oral surgery over two weeks. The programme was intense with the team working 10 hours a day in hot and dusty difficult conditions. None of the sites had electricity, sterilisation was carried out using pressure cookers. Over the course of 9 clinical days they treated over 700 patients free of charge. All of the clinical officers gained extensive experience, each performing approximately 100 supervised procedures and progressing to independent diagnosis and practice. All satisfactorily completed their clinical assessments and written examinations, earning their surgical instruments and decontamination equipment. These committed local practitioners remain in their communities to provide care long after the UK team has departed.