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CMUL Dental Scientists Brighten Community’s Smiles

Maintaining selfless service to humanity for fifteen (15) years, members of the Faculty of Dentistry, College of Medicine, University of Lagos (CMUL) held a community outreach to enlighten the public about oral hygiene.

The outreach, which was held on Wednesday, August 16, 2023, as a part of the Faculty’s 15th Annual Scientific Conference and 5th Alumni Guest Lecture, took place at the Dental Clinic Car Park, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba. It involved:

  • oral health talks;
  • checking participants’ vital signs;
  • examining their oral cavities (mouths);
  • advising patients, in the course of their examination, on lifestyle choices that may affect their dental hygiene;
  • giving diagnosis based on the examinations; and,
  • giving treatment to patients on the spot.

In an economy where cost of living triples by the minute one may wonder: How much did these people have to pay to get dental consultations?

Absolutely nothing! Patients treated at the Faculty of Dental Science community outreach received the above benefits 100% FREE of charge.

When asked what inspired such extent of philanthropy, a professor at the Department of Child Dental Health at the Faculty of Dental Science, CMUL, Professor Omolola O. Orenuga shared that the idea for the outreach was conceived in 2007 when the Faculty (which was School of Dental Sciences at the time) clocked forty (40) years and the matter of celebrating the fortieth anniversary came up.

Professor Omolola O. Orenuga

According to Professor Orenuga, back then she wanted the School to celebrate by projecting its capabilities to the world and the community around it instead of throwing a party; “So I decided to initiate the scientific conference.” This was accompanied by an oral clinical outreach to also ensure the spread of awareness about keeping the mouth healthy.

The school was able to achieve the following remarkable feats with the celebration of its anniversary:

  1. Hold necessary conversations about the best practices and future of dental sciences, and
  2. Enlighten people who would not naturally have visited a dental clinic about dental healthcare.

Due to this success story, the outreach and Conference subsequently became a tradition that has been upheld for 15 years. These events couldn’t hold in 2 different years due to the  COVID-19 pandemic and industrial actions.

Describing the support the idea received in the beginning from her colleagues, she mentioned that: “There wasn’t money from anywhere. So we decided to levy ourselves. Each cadre of staff was levied with an amount to contribute. And it was very delightful to see everybody very cooperative.”

Professor Orenuga explained that even though there were times in the past 15 years that the faculty was able to get sponsorship, the key driver had always been the monetary, intellectual and voluntary-service contributions made by members of staff of the Faculty of Dental Sciences, CMUL, Idi-Araba and the willingness to learn on the part of the students.

Speaking on the reason behind the perpetuity of this noble practice, Professor Orenuga affirmed that she benefited a lot from the Nigerian educational system and still believes in it and the trainings that events such as the conference and outreach can impart on students of the faculty and dental nurses. She emphasised also that continuing to hold the dental community outreach is necessary as “…volunteer work is very, very important in any society. It gives you a sense of duty.”

She also added that the fact that the Nigerian economy is experiencing a dire situation is the reason such community outreaches like the one organised by the Faculty of Dental Sciences should hold. She explained that many of the communities the team had visited had little to no access to medical healthcare services and through the outreach this year as in past events, people would be able to get free treatment and use the money they could have spent on that for other purposes.

Interestingly, just as the saying “the fragrance remains in the hand that gives the rose _ anonymous” goes, Professor Orenuga disclosed that several of the communities where the outreach had been conducted in the past (e.g. Oshodi, Ijora Badia, Mushin etc.) usually make some form of contribution to the success of the outreach; such as setting up the workspace for the outreach by providing tables, chairs, canopies or any other form of support.

Since the establishment of the Annual Scientific Conference and Community Outreach events, the Faculty has recorded notable improvements of facilities through generous donations by sponsors. As a result of this, the Faculty of Dental Sciences’ library got a facelift some years ago and has since maintained it judiciously. The faculty also received donations of laptops and computers at a time in the past and the anniversary celebrations continue to expand. The expansion came in the form of Alumni Guest Lectures which was introduced in the 11th year of holding these events.

Professor Orenuga along with two of her colleagues, Dr. Ijarogbe and Dr. Oluwarotimi, took the Communication Unit team of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) on a tour of the areas where clinical procedures (treatments) were being performed free of charge for participants.

According to statistics supplied by Mrs. T.J. Cardoso, a staff of Faculty of Dental Sciences who coordinated the fast flow of services rendered in the scale and polish section of the clinic and also compiled data for patients seen, a total 100 participants were attended to and received health talks, vital signs checkup and professional examination; 60 patients underwent scale and polish treatment; 4 paediatric patients received tooth treatments; 3 patients had tooth extraction procedures; 1 patient’s tooth was filled; and, 2 patients are to return next week for a procedure called GIC (Glass ionomer cement). Several other patients were advised on what they needed to do if their symptoms didn’t require hospital procedures but needed lifestyle adjustments to improve their oral hygiene or if the procedure they require is more extensive than can be offered in one visit.

The Best Time to Visit A Dentist is NOW

The Dean, Faculty of Dental Sciences, Professor Oluranti O. daCosta, during her welcome address, had earlier sensitised participants that the best time to start visiting a dental clinic in pursuit of a healthy oral cavity is as early as one (1) year old. She explained that people do not need to be in pain before beginning their journey to a healthier life through their mouth. She advised that one can make it a point of duty to visit a dental clinic at least twice a year. She asserted that: “You should consider the checkup as your own servicing, just as cars are serviced for optimal performance regularly.”

One of the beneficiaries of the community outreach disclosed to the Communication Unit team that she learnt about the program through one of her neighbours who called and informed her that he was receiving free treatment at the clinic. According to her, she immediately brought her son along with her.

Another participant at the outreach, Mr. J. E. Isibor, shared that through the health talk sessions he was able to learn that medium toothbrushes are the ideal choice when purchasing a toothbrush and got to see a demonstration of the appropriate method of brushing the teeth. He also learnt that it is much more healthier for one to eat fruits instead of satisfying small appetites with cookies, candies, fizzy drinks etc. “So I now know that I need to brush my teeth twice daily.”

The dental student examining a patient

One of the dental students who examined patients was heard explaining to one of the patients to ensure they brush their teeth as the last activity in their mouth at night and brush it after having their breakfast the next morning. He advised that this practice should be carried out regularly, as brushing at night keeps the mouth fresh till the morning and brushing after breakfast gets rid of food particles that may otherwise remain hidden in the mouth throughout the day, giving room for germs to develop.

An Intern, Danladi Blessing, when asked what contributing her professional skills to the community outreach meant to her, stated that: “As a dental care advocate, I feel very fulfilled participating in this outreach and helping people know that as the mouth is the gateway to the entire body system, it is important for them to take care of it, because whatever affects the mouth will affect the body.” She informed that taking care of the mouth helps in boosting people’s confidence as their mouth will feel fresh and they can speak publicly without fear of embarrassment due to halitosis (commonly referred to as bad breath or mouth odour), dental plaques which affect the appearance of the teeth, etc. After completing a scale and polish procedure on one of the patients, she said: “…performing these procedures today, I feel good, because I am practicing my profession and I’m letting the whole world know more about it.

Aiyelomi Oluwanifemi at the oral and maxillofacial surgery section of the clinic, asserted that people need more awareness about the importance of practicing healthy oral hygiene. She decried the mentality that had been passed around for generations that tooth removal is the only treatment given at a dental clinic or that all teeth related issues result in removal. Oluwanifemi posited that such had been observed in several patients who visited the hospital when the case of their teeth had greatly deteriorated.

She informed that many of such people seek guidance for dental issues from friends, neighbours, colleagues etc. who are also giving advice based on myths or personal inferences and then these people end up using different substances or methods that may further damage the state of their teeth.

Tooth removal is the last option we give whenever there’s an issue with the teeth.” Oluwanifemi informed that when people come to the hospital early before their tooth pain become intense, “it could just be your brushing method that we would advise you to improve upon or you may need some cleaning, a fluoride therapy or subgingival scaling etc.

According to her, when a tooth problem is left without professional care for too long it may degenerate to periodontitis, pericoronitis etc. which affect the gum tissue and may loosen its grip on the tooth making it shaky and close to falling off or the cavity in such person’s teeth may have opened up to the pulp section of the teeth exposing the nerves running through the gum to interference, which causes a painful sensation. She explained that this gives the clinic no other choice than to extract such a person’s tooth. Unfortunately, it further strengthens the myth that tooth removal is the only solution in dental care.

Professor Orenuga, the founder of the Annual Conference and community outreach disclosed that beyond the dental healthcare administered, the checkup and evaluation run on patients sometimes help in spotting other underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension etc. This helps in referring such patients to specialists in related medical fields.

A close view at a patient’s teeth before and after scale and polish treatment.

Now You Know That…

From the perspective of the professionals, prevention is always better than cure. It is up to us to religiously do the following hence forth:

  • Brush twice daily. Last thing at night, and after breakfast in the morning.
  • Adults should make use of medium toothbrushes as opposed to hard ones, while children should use soft toothbrushes.
  • Make visiting a dentist part of  regular health routine.
  • Parents should take their children for dental assessments as early as they clock one year old.
  • Do not wait until any pain in the mouth becomes severe before visiting a dental clinic.
  • When you feel peckish, favour fruits and vegetables (watermelon, carrots, bananas etc.) more than cookies (biscuits), chocolate, candy, chewy gum etc.
  • Avoid drinking fizzy and carbonated drinks. They are high in sugar content, which is poor for oral and overall health.
  • Avoid alcohol consumption and stop smoking.

Remember, healthy mouth, healthy body!

The Journey Thus Far

When the program held for the first time, it was held under the School of Dental Sciences. Today, the school has metamorphosed into a full fledged Faculty of Dental Sciences with five (5) departments:

  • Department of Child Dental Health
  • Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology/Biology
  • Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Department of Preventive Dentistry
  • Department of Restorative Dentistry

Also, it has opened an avenue for the further development of the faculty through donations, income generation from paying participants at the Annual Conference and Alumni Guest Lecture and a homecoming of sorts for alumni who return to share their wealth of knowledge and experience while delivering a lecture.

What is the Cost of Giving Back to the Society?

Thinking of the actual cost that went into giving these free healthcare services, one would conclude it is very likely unquantifiable.

One patient would need to pay a minimum of ₦7,500 to have a scale and polish treatment. The community outreach was able to do sixty (60) of these at no cost to the community participants, costing the faculty ₦450,000.

One tooth extraction procedure would cost a minimum of ₦5,000 per person. Three (3) extractions were performed at the outreach free of charge, costing the members of the Faculty of Dental Sciences ₦15,000.

To get consultation at the hospital, a new patient would naturally need to register and open a case note at the minimum cost of ₦4,000. There were one hundred (100) recorded participants at the community outreach and thus that must have costed the faculty ₦400,000.

Considering the 4 paediatric treatments, 2 GIC procedures and 1 tooth filling, the members of the Faculty of Dental Sciences expended over ₦865,000 in manpower, materials and services rendered to help individuals living in the Mushin axis of Lagos State, Nigeria regain their confidence with fresh breath and sunny smiles. Many left educated, refreshed and satisfied with their choice of participating in the program.

While citizens of the nation writhe in the current financial constraints, these dental scientists have spared no expense or effort in bringing necessary medical healthcare to the public.

Like someone said during the COVID-19 pandemic, the real heroes  of our time don’t wear capes, they wear lab coats, scrubs, face masks and gloves. The same applies to the staff and students of the Faculty of Dental Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Lagos.

You are heroes indeed. We see your good deeds. We value your great work!

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