An enriching journey to Mozambique offering two weeks of complimentary dental care.

By Dr. Vivak Shah

Discovering the beauty of Mozambique and its ever-smiling locals has left a vivid mark on me and has created countless unforgettable memories.

Venturing to remote locations and reaching villages previously unexplored by foreigners, involved travelling by speedboats followed by 4X4 vehicles driving through stunning national parks and sanctuaries.

For me, the goal of continuing to engage in such projects is to raise awareness, inspire, strengthen belief in one another and ourselves, and commit to a cause for humanity using the gift I trained for.

I was delighted to share this incredible experience with my two sons, aiming for them to learn beyond the confines of traditional education. They worked diligently by my side as dental nurses, mastering the use of different instruments and setups, including anesthesia, showing immense care, empathy, and compassion towards the patients.

Our team comprised of five dentists, a compliance manager, a practice manager, a former Royal Marine, Smile Star CEO and my two sons. We embarked on an 18-hour journey to reach Villanculous, Mozambique on the 11th of February.

The objective of our mission was to offer free dental care to as many patients as possible.

Each day, our dental team travelled to a new outreach villages, often requiring a 90-minute drive inland to reach the most remote areas of Mozambique.

This was our itinerary:

Day 1 – Evista Care Home, Villanculous
Day 2 – Village of Quewene
Day 3 – Village of Macunhe
Day 4 – Quequere A Health Center
Day 5 – Machaniça Health Center
Day 6 – Village of Murure
Day 7 – Mapinhane Health Center
Day 8 – Center of Pambarra
Day 9 – Vilankulo Rural Hospital

Access to dental care is severely limited in these regions of the country with only 37 registered dentists in the whole country.

During our two-week stay, we encountered some truly touching stories:

On the third day of our mission, a man walked for seven hours to reach us, suffering from tooth pain for three months.

On another occasion, while operating our usual outdoor dental clinic under a tree, the team witnessed a mother giving birth just about 5 meters away from our setup, on the floor in the sand.

These incidents shed light on the challenging local healthcare system, nudging us to recognise the value of the healthcare services in the UK

The demand for dentistry in Mozambique is substantial. We encountered various dental issues leading to extractions, mostly due to decay.

The main reasons behind this included:

• Lack of access to toothpaste and brushes
• Lack of education on oral health
• Very limited access to dentists
• High sugar diet

I am particularly proud of the sustainable aspect of this project. Throughout the two-week camp, we collaborated with three local dentists who initially assisted the team. During the second week, they treated patients under the close guidance of all dentists, and they performed exceptionally well.

All the dentists involved in this project exhibit a genuine passion for dentistry, positioning them as some of the most pragmatic and hands-on professionals I have had the pleasure of working alongside.

The word spread quickly about the camp, resulting in our last two days in Mozambique being the busiest. We treated an average of about 200 patients per day during this period, with no patient being turned away.

Watch this to get an overview of our camp set up.

The project concluded on its 9th day, with a total of 900 patients treated and well over 2000 teeth extracted.

On our final day, we were honoured with Mozambican scarves by Villanculous’ administrator, Mr. Galiza, and his wife, Mercia.

Smilestar has been approached to provide help and guidance to the Mozambican government in implementing an oral health prevention program.

Thank you, Mozambique, and we look forward to returning soon.

A heartfelt thank you to all our family, friends, staff and patients who generously donated and sent us their well wishes!

Your support is truly appreciated and has been instrumental in making our trip a huge success.