On January 20th, the mobile dental clinic began its tour of villages in Bihar.
The mobile dental clinic is a component of the dental health program launched in June 2022. This project has three phases: community oral hygiene education, prevention, and finally non-traumatic restorative diagnosis and treatment.
The program is also being implemented in the state of Jharkhand, with prevention sessions and dental consultations at the fixed clinic in Karuna-Shechen. A mobile van will soon complement our services in this region.
Oral hygiene education and prevention
The program has a priority component of education. Karuna-Shechen teams visit villages to conduct educational awareness camps, for example, on tooth brushing techniques and the importance of this dental care procedure. These workshops are accompanied by the distribution of products such as toothpaste, so that the communities can put into practice the methods transmitted.
It is good that such information sessions are held in schools so that students know how to maintain their oral hygiene.Usha Rani, teacher at the UHS Edal school
The goal of the program is to prevent recurring problems rather than treat them. One of the major oral health issues in India is oral cancer, which is caused by heavy tobacco use. Tobacco is smoked and chewed by many members of the communities Karuna works with. Tobacco consumption increases the risk of cancer very strongly with the areas in contact, and this has been studied extensively. The risk of cancer is increased in the oral cavity, especially in the gums and cheek lining, when tobacco is chewed or snuffed.
The prevention activities are therefore concerned with informing people of the correlation between oral cancer and tobacco consumption, and recommending that they reduce this practice.
Diagnosis and treatment
After an initial tour of the villages in January to inform all villagers of the initiative, the van began its visits. The organization is established: a prevention and awareness campaign is held in a village, and then the van goes there three or four times a week for a month. The van is equipped with medical equipment that the program’s dentist can use to examine the villagers, both children, and adults. For the first week of diagnosis, the van sets up in a location that sees a lot of traffic, such as a school.
The second week of diagnosis, the mobile clinic moves to a different site, reaching a different audience, such as in front of a community center. In the third week, the dentist and her equipment return to the first location to provide care to those diagnosed the previous week, and in the fourth week, care is provided at the second location. This allows all villagers who wish to be examined, despite their travel and time constraints, to receive the necessary medical care.
The mobile clinic’s approach is restorative rather than invasive. The procedures provided by the bus dentist include tooth filling.
One of the major dental health issues in India is the overconsumption of fluoride, which is present in dangerous doses in the water that people, especially rural people, drink. Fluoride, in large quantities, damages teeth, bones, joints, and digestive organs. Dental fluorosis, which affects 18 million Indians, was considered untreatable until recently, so actions were focused on prevention. Today, the disease is reversible if dental care is administered before the age of 12, the ingested water is better purified and the patient supplements his diet.
Karuna’s holistic approach aims to improve the situation, offering affordable rehabilitative dental and physiotherapy care, water management solutions, and vegetable gardens to provide all necessary nutrients and prevent anemia. Foods recommended by the WHO to fight fluorosis – especially for pregnant women, who are particularly vulnerable – can be grown in the garden, such as tamarind or guava.
Making dental care accessible
The population we serve is of a low socio-economic class, so they need to prioritize their expenses. Dental health is often placed in the luxury category due to its cost and difficulty reaching the facilities offering these services. The mobile clinic allows access to remote Indian areas and brings the service to patients free of charge. The care provided at the fixed clinic does have a cost, but it is minimal compared to the prices charged by the private dental clinics in the region.
The project pays particular attention to the children so that the problems that arise can be taken care of at an earlier stage.
Ashish’s father, Mr. Kumar, testifies: “Karuna Shechen organized a mobile dental camp in the Anganwadi center in Bija. Ashish, my son, was given a dental check-up. After the screening, the doctor informed us that he had poor oral hygiene. She told us that our child does not brush his teeth enough and as a result, there is a thick yellow layer of dirt accumulated in his mouth. She also told us that if we didn’t remove it, our child could lose his teeth prematurely. She offered to do a safe cleaning with a machine and instruments.
We agreed to have Ashish treated but we didn’t have the money at the time. So he was treated for free. When our child came out of the van, his teeth were white and cleaner than before. We are very happy to see him smile, and we would also like to be treated in this dental van.
We have never valued his oral care and taking him to a dental clinic never crossed our minds. After our experience at the dental camp organized by Karuna Shechen, we now realize the importance of oral hygiene and will now try to maintain good hygiene for him and the whole family.”
The areas targeted by the mobile clinic are currently similar to the regions where Karuna has been implementing its other projects for years. Indeed, the relationship with the communities is already solidly established, notably thanks to the bond of trust created with the social mobilizers. Moreover, the association’s approach being holistic, it makes sense to provide these services to people who are also involved in other projects, to help them break the cycle of poverty and its consequences.
The project is intended to expand to other villages and regions in the future.