Bridge2Aid: Volunteer to be part of the solution

Bridge2Aid address the causes of poverty in some of the poorest communities in the developing world.

Around 75% of the world’s population has no access to even the most basic of emergency dental care. In Tanzania, there are only 495 dental professionals for a population of 55 million people.

You could make a difference!

Bridge2Aid are calling for volunteers to help support them in their work to address the causes of poverty in some of the poorest communities in the developing world.

They do this by strengthening local healthcare systems – specifically by training local healthcare workers in the provision of emergency dental treatment, where there is currently no access to pain relief and treatment. Oral disease, infection and chronic pain desperately need to be addressed in these communities to enable people to work, attend school and care for their families. The Bridge2Aid sustainable training model passes skills into local communities to provide longterm lasting change by enabling local health workers.

Bridge2Aid Australia: The basic facts

  • Over 70% of the world has no access to any form of dental treatment. This is the case in rural Tanzania where people often suffer with months or years of debilitating pain. As well as pain and infection this also has significant financial and academic impact. To give you an idea of the scale - as many working days are lost to dental disease as they are to malaria.
  • Set up at the end of 2016 Bridge2Aid Australia works with Bridge2Aid UK and Bridge2Aid Tanzania to provide emergency dental training to rural health workers in Tanzania. The health workers already have three years of medical training – but no dental skills
  • Training comprises a 10 day intensive practical training in anesthesia, extraction, oral health education and infection control
  • Training is carried out by volunteer dentists, dental assistants, hygienists and therapists. Volunteers would be away from work for a fortnight. There is a specific section on the website to sign up as a volunteer – as well as an FAQ section.
  • There are many opportunities for members of the Australian dental community to support – either as volunteers, fundraisers or donors. Please visit the website bridge2aid.au.com, follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
Faustine’s story illustrates how vitally important access to basic dentistry is. Faustine came to Bridge2Aid’s clinic with a severe infection and a horribly swollen face. He had been in pain and had sought untrained help to remove his tooth. Unfortunately this just exacerbated the situation. Following this he had to take the desperate step of selling his farm so he could pay for further treatment, which still did not solve his problem. By the time he was seen by Bridge2Aid all we could do was assess him and refer him on for specialist surgery. His problem could have been solved swiftly and simply if he’d had access to someone with basic dental skills..

The shocking truth
In Tanzania, there are 111 registered dentists, 162 Assistant Dental Officers, and 222 Dental Therapists. With a population of around 55 million, this equates to around one dental professional to every 110,000 people, and only one dentist for every 495,000 people.

The WHO recommended level is 1:7500. With the majority of these dental professionals being based in the cities, and around 80% of the population living in rural areas, the solution can’t come from the Tanzanian Dental Profession. We believe that the solution is to train locally-based medically-trained Health workers to care for their own rural communities.

Since 2005, Bridge2Aid has reduced poverty by:

  • Providing around five-million people in rural areas of Tanzania with access to emergency dental care, approximately 12% of the national rural population;
  • Successfully training 520 Health Workers in emergency dental care, increasing the number of medical professionals able to deliver emergency dental care in Tanzania.

The Bridge2Aid Dental Volunteer Programme
Bridge2Aid are running a Dental Volunteer Programme where experienced dentists and dental nurses from approved overseas countries volunteer to train Health Workers, to provide them with the skills, equipment and support to deliver safe and free emergency dental care in their communities.

Each Dental Volunteer Programme requires seven dentists and four dental nurses to participate as volunteers, with the entire trip expected to last 12-14 days. The training takes place at rural health centres and free emergency dental care is offered to the local communities during the training (advertised through posters at the community centres and markets and announcements at churches and mosques).

To select a location to host the Dental Volunteer Programme, members of the Bridge2Aid team carry out visits, interviews, consultations and research to ensure that it is an area that has a need for increased access to emergency dental care. This involves meeting with Local Dental Practitioners, Ward Executive Officers, and leaders of schools, community groups, churches and mosques, who will also be able to advise on the practicalities of running the programme, such as security and safety.

Before the Dental Volunteer Programme, Health Workers are asked to complete a short questionnaire on their experience and training in dental care and to estimate how many patients have come into their clinic complaining of dental pain. Health Workers also have to undertake a short exam to indicate their level of knowledge before any training has taken place.

For the Health Workers, the Dental Volunteer Programme consists of one day of theoretical preparation, delivered by the Local Dental Practitioners, and eight days of one-to-one practical training, delivered by the dental volunteers.

At the end of the training programme, Health Workers are asked to complete a short feedback form about how well they felt the learning outcomes for the course were met. This is followed by a one-hour written examination, containing 30 questions about the material that has been taught during the training programme. The Local Dental Practitioner and the Site Clinical Lead, who are overseeing the training programme then assess each Health Worker, with input from the dental volunteers, on their skills in communication, examination, anaesthesia, extractions, oral health, infection control, theoretical knowledge and self-awareness.

The Health Workers that pass the examination and assessment are provided with a basic instrument kit and nonelectric steriliser (pressure cooker), so they can start serving their local community.

Bridge2Aid also provides an initial support network for the Health Workers until they have the confidence and experience to operate independently, after which they become the responsibility of the government health service.

Phase 2: Training the trainers
After successfully running a series of volunteer-led training programmes in a country, Bridge2Aid aim to move onto the second phase. This involves training Local Dental Practitioners to deliver the training programme for Health Workers, removing the need to recruit dental volunteer teams from overseas.

Two ways you can get involved

  1. You can be part of an amazing project. If you’re a dentist, dental nurse, assistant, hygienist or therapist we need you on our team. Join the two-week training programme and use your unique skills to make an ongoing difference. Meet like-minded people and change lives.

  2. Sign your practice up to become a Practice Partner and help fund the training of one rural health worker. Each person trained gives access to safe emergency dental care to 10,000 people. Your fundraising/donation will go a long way, and your practice will reap the benefits.

Find out more at www.bridge2aid.com.au or email [email protected]

Bridge2Aid Australia is registered as a charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). Our charity ABN is 139987-848.