In November 2012, the Semiahmoo Dental Outreach team travelled for its third visit to the Philippine Island of Siquijor. Our group of 29 included five dentists (Ken Stones, Murray Bohn, Danny Salcedo, Bob Symonds and Grant Rawstron-all from the BC lower mainland), two hygienists, five dental assistants, eight fourth year Kwantlen University nursing students and two of their instructors, three RNs and several other volunteers. Our goals were to treat the children and teachers of three elementary schools in the village of San Juan, and to teach caries preventive measures to as many residents as possible.

Siquijor is an island of just over 100,000 people, with a very low average income level. Due to the huge sugar consumption and poor knowledge of the sugar-caries cause-effect, there is a very high caries rate on the island. Although three government-employed dentists on the island do relief of pain by extracting teeth, we observed very little restorative work and what we saw was of a very poor quality, resulting in iatrogenic damage in each patient we saw.

As before, we set up our clinic in the large dormitory in Solangon Elementary School. We had four dental units, one station for extractions and triage, and a hygiene station with a cavitron. Over eight days, we saw over several hundred patients, restored hundreds of teeth, and had to extract many teeth that were beyond saving. We also applied fluoride varnish to every patient, and left trained people to re-apply the varnish treatment 6 months later.

We owe the clinic’s extreme success to many participants, especially the team members whose dedication and enthusiasm made it happen. They worked hard and uncomplainingly under difficult circumstances. The success of the trip was bolstered by the generous support of the ICD whose donations were used to purchase supplies and equipment. The Semiahmoo Rotary Club donated funds to assist us in helping the Siquijor Rotary Club projects, and we also received donations from the public in South Surrey which we passed on to the Siquijor Rotary Club. The Rotary project we helped to fund was the testing and supplying of prescription glasses for all grade four, five and six students on Siquijor who require glasses. It is extremely rare to see anyone on Siquijor wearing glasses. This is because of the complete lack of eye testing and the expense of obtaining glasses. We were also able to fund the construction of several “tooth brush troughs”.

The Siqujor Rotary Club has made a huge difference in enabling us to concentrate on the clinical work. They had everything in place for our arrival, provided about 20 volunteers each day, transported children to and from the clinic, and took care of any needs as they arose. They welcomed us back this year, and helped us build on our work from 2010.

Our nursing student members were boosted from 3 to 8 yhis year. They undertook three prevention programs and were able to speak to parents and students at about 35 schools on the island. They had spent two weeks in their program researching and developing power point presentations on caries prevention, healthy nutrition, and parasite infection prevention. The caries prevention presentation was customized to show Filipino snack foods and showed photographs from our triage station of badly broken down mouths. The nursing students presented their program at several elementary schools where the parents were present, many high schools and several PTA meetings with hundreds of parents in attendance, about 35 presentations in total. These students add an extremely valuable resource to our team.

We made an effort to set in motion prevention measures that would be ongoing after we left. We trained four local women to continue the preventive power point presentations at schools after our departure, and re-apply fluoride varnish to the several hundred students we saw in November. Our influence in Solangon led to several meetings between the Solangon School principal, a Rotary club member, and the local small store owners who are located adjacent to every school on the island. These shop keepers sell large amounts of inexpensive candy and pop to the children with devastating results. At the meetings, they were encouraged to look into less damaging and more nutritious snack alternatives. Dental education of the shop keepers is badly needed as we noticed their children were amongst the worst of the rampant caries patients we saw. Progress is being made on this front, as less sugary snacks are being offered for sale now.

The children in Solongon School who are caries free in their permanent dentition receive an award at the school’s closing ceremonies in December. There were only seven qualifying children in 2011, from the 250 pupils. In 1012, that number grew to 85! Needless to say, the 2012 dental/nursing team was extremely pleased with that news. We look forward to seeing more signs of healthier children next year.