Health professionals assess dental needs

Two Kiwi health workers are in Samoa with the view to make a difference. 

Under the New Zealand Dental Association and Wrigley’s Foundation, Joshua Torres, 26, and colleague, Oliver Dugena, 28, are here to help Samoa’s dental health.

Speaking to Samoa Observer, Mr. Dugena said they want to make a meaningful impact in Samoa.

“Rather than people coming over and helping, which leaves a temporary impact and then they leave again, my idea was seeing what was needed, ask the people what is needed and then go back and tell New Zealand,” he said.

“We want to create that connection and then come back later with a better team, teaching, or more things that are needed.”

Mr. Torres said there is a need for more clinics in Samoa to cater for dental needs. 

He is also believes there is a need to raise dental health awareness.  

“There are few clinics in the country so most are treated at the main hospital and with volunteer groups like LDS treating 5% of the population with about 25 patients a day for free; that’s still not enough.”

“The hospital clinic is trying to pump out services as much as they can but there are only so many dentists they have.”

“Yes you can do the basics, take out teeth, fill the teeth and see the patients.”

“But to make a major effect you need to hit it from all angles; there should be a group allocated to work with kids doing preventative stuff so when they grow old, there won’t be as much work to be done.”

They also commended the work ethics of dentists and nurses they’ve met in the hospital.

For Mr. Dugena, he said Samoa needs more dentists to focus on specialized operation procedures.

He also stressed the importance of healthy teeth. From the cases he’s seen in Samoa so far, some people only care when they start to rot.

 “Teeth can get rotten and get worse which can cause medical problems as well so it’s very important to keep the people educated on the matter,” Mr. Dugena advised. 

Joshua Torres spent two years in hospital dental and oral maxillofacial department with Auckland District Health Board.

They currently practice in a private dentistry in Wellington. Mr. Dugena is training to be an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

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