In February 2020 I was lucky enough to join a group of fellow dentists and support team members to go to India to provide dental care with the charity Smilestar. Smilestar is a charity that was set up 10 years ago by fellow dentist Mitesh Badiani to provide basic dental care in some of the poorest countries of the world.
Each dentist travelling needs an assistant who doesn’t need any dental experience so I travelled with my sister, Louise. I also knew one of the other dentists going as we had met 10 years previously through the BACD, but I had never met any of the other people going. We met up in Heathrow on Saturday evening for the first time just as we went through check in.
We flew to New Delhi and then onto Rajkot, followed by a 3 hour minibus drive to Khambalia where we were based. After around 24 hours of travel door to door, we got a good night’s sleep and were ready to start work the next day. Smilestar had built a hospital in Khambalia and we started seeing patient there. When we arrived at the hospital, the welcome that we got was incredible, they were so happy to see us.
The set up was very basic, just a chair in one large room, no such thing as patient confidentiality in India. We each had a translator who would explain the problem, all we could do was take out painful teeth or refer to the hospital for actual treatment. In the part of India that we were in, Gujarat, there is a significant problem with diabetes and high blood pressure, this results in a lot of gum disease and wobbly teeth that needed to come out.
We had brought all our equipment such as forceps, syringes and local anaesthetics so we were able to make sure that everyone we saw could have pain free treatment and we took out a lot of teeth. There were no x-ray facilities, no suction, no dental chairs, it was very different to how I normally work at Evolve. We saw everyone who needed to be seen and it was a very busy clinic.
Over the next few days, we went to different villages where we were always welcomed like rock stars and we took out hundreds of teeth. Between the 4 dentists and 1 doctor, we saw around 600 patients whilst we were there.
I had never been to India and it was a fantastic experience, I absolutely loved it all. I think we saw a tiny part of real India, we didn’t see any other Westerners whilst we were there until we got back to the airport in Rajkot. The food was incredible, Gujarat is a vegetarian state, so no meat, just a lot of delicious vegetable curries. It was such a colourful place, all the women dressed in the most beautiful saris, and it was so incredibly busy everywhere we went. I made some great friends too.
I feel very humbled and honoured to have had such an experience and thank everyone who supported me which allowed me to get a lot of people out of dental pain. I am already thinking which trip I can do next year…..