Morocco blog

Our amazing dental team has recently returned from a very busy and successful Dentaid trip to Chefchaouen in Northern Morocco.  Known as the Blue Pearl for its picturesque blue painted  old town of winding streets, arches and markets, this town was the location for our dental mission in the local schools.

Our team of seven dentists, five nurses and a hygienist, along with an experienced team of local translators and assistants worked hard to relieve pain and promote oral health and prevention to school children.

The daily diet of the local children is high in sugar with consumption of coke, fizzy drinks, sweet biscuits and snacks.  We soon discovered that it is uncommon for the children to eat breakfast and they bring sweet snacks to school as a substitute to consume during break times.  When screened the children were seen to have a high caries experience in deciduous teeth as well as in the erupting permanent dentition; six year old molars were decaying within 2 years of eruption. Generally screening showed that 25% of the 6’s and 75% of the d’s and e’s were decayed.

We screened the children in the classrooms where in small teams we checked the teeth selecting those with dental pain to receive treatment.  The children were given a toothbrush and oral health education, tooth brushing advice and a chance to practice brushing on the large fun models. The simple message was to brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste over all the tooth surfaces front and back, paying special attention to the large molar pits and the gum line.  We also gave important advice on diet and the role of sweets in tooth decay stressing the need to consume fewer sweets and sweet drinks.  Sweet Moroccan mint tea is very popular in the diet.  The children spoke Arabic and we benefitted from translators, and some of us were able to communicate in French.  Many of the children received fluoride varnish applications in the classrooms.

Over the week we provided dental treatments in five local schools.  We worked well as a team and soon got into the routine of setting up treatment and sterilising rooms in the classrooms.  There were seven stations where the dentists treated the patients in pain.  Nurses and translators assisted with the extractions and aftercare of the children. 

The facilities were very basic: an invaluable head torch with spare batteries, an upright chair, a table and a simple tray with mirror and probe!  Forceps and other instruments and supplies were set out on a large central table for easy access.  The pressure cookers sterilised efficiently though not without their loud puffs of steam!

The dental team worked hard over the course of the week treating 931 patients and providing 1059 extractions. More than 4000 children received tooth brushing instruction and 4000 toothbrushes were distributed along with many tubes of paste.  Fluoride treatments were applied to 1,450 children in the classrooms and clinics.

Our week together as a team was a tremendous dental experience. Our work was strongly supported by the local team led by Dija who along with Mark and a team of local volunteers had worked hard to enable such a successful programme. They brought so much fun to the volunteering experience too through music, dancing and some amazing sightseeing and shopping expeditions along the way!  The schools and local communities were so appreciative of our efforts to bring dental health and pain relief to these children, and the extent of welcome and Morocco hospitality was humbling. 

Going forward, there is a great need for continued dental missions to the schools in Morocco.  Several studies have shown there to be insufficient oral health care.  There are low rates of toothbrush use amongst Moroccan children and their parents and the brushing method is inefficient. In one study the correlation between the plaque index of the mothers and children suggests that the mothers OH behaviours influence their children’s dental health. (OH in Moroccan school children and their parents, Sante Publique 2016)  The lack of oral hygiene and consuming sugary products and sweet sodas leads to tooth decay.  Oral hygiene habits must be learned from a young age and become a routine that is maintained through life. 

The lack of proper oral hygiene, limited access to dental healthcare, irregular use of toothbrushes and toothpaste in rural settings, low income families and inadequate knowledge on oral health has lead to a widespread health issue. (Insufficient Oral healthcare: An overlooked public health crisis) 

To ensure continuity, the school teachers are well placed to promote ongoing oral health and perhaps incorporate dental health advice into the teaching curriculum.

This was a truly rewarding Dentaid mission and the team worked well together to provide the best care we could to the most people we could in a short space of time. We are looking forward to future missions!

Volunteer in Morocco with Dentaid