Monday 22 June 2015


Today I had my first day of 'screening' with Bob. Rather than doing the traditional dental treatment of drilling and filling (or as it is in Vanuatu - pullem tooth) I went out to a school and did 79 check ups and fluoride treatments on kinder and Year 1 students (equivalent to kindergarten/reception/Year 1 in South Australia). The teachers were great at helping us get the kids in order. I felt a bit shy as other students and parents crowded around the big UNICEF tent we were screening in but I guess they're more scared of me than I am of them! Generally the kids are smiley with us, some are a bit shy but one little girl bawled the entire time she was in the tent so I wasn't able to check her mouth, despite my attempts at bribes of stickers. Unfortunately almost every child had decay which made me feel a bit sad - these children are so young they will struggle to have so much treatment (if they can get it) and their dental fear will be perpetuated, not to mention the pain and embarrassment their decay will cause them. Dental decay is the most prevalent preventable chronic disease in the world.

Despite our incredibly hectic dental schedules we are struggling to adjust to the relaxed island pace. In Australia our patients are booked in tight schedules to maximise our productivity and sometimes we may even miss a lunch break but in Vanuatu the standard lunch break is 2 hours. Great for lifestyle but not when you want to treat as many people as possible! Poor Richard Tatwin, PCV Coordinator, has been very caring and encouraging us to take longer breaks when we would sometimes rather work through lunch. The Ni-Vans are very relaxed and don't seem too fussed by much (even cyclones) which seems to be in contrast to my life at home where I can cram things in to the point of stress and exhaustion. I can never imagine an Australian wedding with 9 couples (imagine the bridezillas together) but the Ni-Vans seemed very happy to celebrate as a community. I hope that I bring back a bit of Vanuatu to Australia by slowing down my life to a bit of more of a island pace and appreciating the simple important things more.


1 comment:

  1. Wonderful reflections, Susan. Devastating to see the lack of dental care and oral health education, but you are making a difference! We can learn so much from other cultures. X Jacqui