A Hope Filled Smile

Mercy Ships provides dental training to developing countries

Imagine having a toothache so severe it becomes life-threatening, simply because the dentists in your country have not been properly trained. For those living in countries with little or no access to proper dental care, easily curable dental diseases can deteriorate into serious conditions — like the one Samory experienced when his toothache evolved into a facial tumor.

Having grown up in a rural village, Samory knew that there was little chance he would be able to seek medical attention for his tumor.

“The worst part was knowing that it was only going to get worse because there was nothing we could do,” Samory said. “When I thought of my future, I was scared.”

Eventually, Samory made the journey to Conakry hoping to find help. When he reached the city, he heard the good news he so desperately needed — a hospital ship with volunteer medical professionals had arrived in Guinea! After being approved for an operation on the Africa Mercy, Samory’s dreams of the future no longer seemed so distant.

After his surgery, Samory looked in the mirror and saw the smile he remembered from his youth. He was finally free from pain!

For many people in Guinea, simple dental procedures are almost impossible to find. However, the Mercy Ships Dental Clinic is working to change that, by training local dental students in a hands-on learning environment.

Lead dentist Dr. David Ugai, a volunteer from Woodbury, MN, heads up the Mercy Ships Medical Capacity Building (MCB) program in dentistry which aims to enhance the standards of care within African partner healthcare institutions.

Currently, a team consisting Dr. Ugai and 13 Mercy Ships volunteers, is partnering with the Guinean Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene to provide mentoring and courses to faculty and students at the Gamal Abdel Nasser University — the only dental school in Guinea. This training contains practical and relevant projects that demonstrate and impart knowledge, skills, and a compassionate, professional attitude to each participant.

“Working with the dentists and dental students has been a mutually beneficial learning project,” Dr. Ugai said. “The dentists and students are very equipped and motivated to provide excellent care for their patients… It has been a privilege and honor to work alongside these very skilled professionals.”

After the field service ends in June of 2019, Mercy Ships will hand over a renovated, equipped and, fully-functioning dental clinic to the university. It is designed so that future generations of Guinean dentists are properly equipped to provide quality care to patients so that people like Samory will no longer suffer from preventable dental problems.