News and Stories from the Texas Medical Community


Texas Based Mercy Ships Dentists Give More Than a Smile

By on February 17, 2012 in Health News Texas with 0 Comments

African kids will benefit from Mercy Ship dentists. Photo: Mercy Ships

by Health News Texas Staff

While many dentists in the U.S. contribute time to provide free oral health care services to children from low-income families across the country, Dr. Doug Daehlin, from Spokane, Washington, is doing the same in Lomé, Togo.

Located in northeast corner of Texas, Garden Valley based Mercy Ships volunteer dental professionals work on and off of the Africa Mercy, the world’s largest privately owned hospital ship.

Dr. Daehlin is one of more than 400 Mercy Ships crewmembers, including dental team and oral/maxillofacial team members, who volunteered their expertise in remote countries like Togo.

“While there are lots of opportunities to be a volunteer dentist around the world, I was immediately drawn to Mercy Ships.” said Dr. Daehlin. “During my volunteer service, I will work side-by-side with dental colleagues from other parts of the U.S. and around the world. Our collaboration and exchange is an invaluable experience.”

Docked in the West African port for its fifth visit since 1990,Mercy Ships medical professionals hold free dental consultations in the nearby community. With a population of slight more than six million, the country has approximately 19 dentists, or one for every 10,000 citizens, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In comparison the United States has 16 dentists per 10,000.

Appointment cards are given to residents to be assisted during the 2012 Togo Field Service. Managing Director of the Africa Mercy, Donovan Palmer, emphasized that Mercy Ships offers its services for free, and those selected for medical care do not pay for any assistance.

African Mercy. Photo: Mercy Ships

“I am pleased that for the fifth time Mercy Ships is coming to Togo and helping with their humanitarian mission.’ said Charles Kondi Agba, Togo’s Minister of Health. “This helps the Ministry of Health and the government to help the Togolese, especially those who do not have means.”

Oral health is an integral part of an individual’s general health. Oral disease directly affects quality of life by seriously hindering an individual’s well-being and ability to effectively participate in society. Nutritional intake can be negatively impacted by incapacity to chew.

Residents of sub-Saharan Africa lack adequate dental care. Minimally trained personnel lacking proper tools or expertise to perform restorative functions often extract decaying teeth.

Decay is typically left untreated until it becomes so extensive and so painful that extraction is the only option. As a result, patients are exposed to the possibility of serious infection, stressing an already weakened immune system.

Volunteer medical crew onboard the Africa Mercy hope to provide more than 1,250 free surgeries and 11,000 dental procedures during the ships six-month visit to port.

Togolese locals will be mentored in various aspects of assisting, sterilizing, and teaching oral hygiene. The ship’s volunteers will offer basic oral health education to more than 400 elementary and secondary students, as well as to 4,000 individuals in the dental clinics’ waiting areas.

The dental care provided by Mercy Ships meets a critical need in the developing countries of West Africa – giving a bright and beautiful smile to those in need!

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