Over the past six years, well-known Raumati dental surgeon Dr Gary Lawrence, has travelled to the island of Taveuni in Fiji along with three Rotary dentists from other parts of New Zealand, to provide much needed care at no cost to the island population. They work long hours every day, except for those on which they are travelling to and from Fiji. The three others are Drs Johnston Luen, Ray Joe, and Helen Cornwall.
Dr Lawrence bought his Raumati dental practice 35 years ago, and first gained knowledge of the critical need for dental assistance in the Fiji Islands through his Rotary Club of Kapiti connections.
This dentistry quartet returned in September from their Taveuni Island biennial visit, having administered 420 examinations; 905 tooth fillings; and 190 extractions, over a period of two weeks.
Their efforts in the commencement of school education in oral hygiene, together with an infection control protocol, has significantly reduced the overall tooth decay problem on the island very significantly. A worrying overall dental problem in one area was discovered during this trip, where there were 6 children with 10 cavities. This discovery was most disheartening, and remedial measures were put into place in an endeavour to educate the children to adhere to hygiene routines.
The Rotary Club of Taveuni Island coordinates the visits, and also raises substantial funds from individuals and medical supply companies, all of whom contribute to the required dental material for the procedures that these four dental surgeons give.
Interestingly, the work is carried out in a variety of situations. The team travel to the patients, and operate in carpentry workshops, schools, and in the outdoors. They have devised a well-rehearsed operating technique, which uses equipment adaptation to suit the location. ‘Our working environment is completely different to that which we are accustomed in our respective surgeries. Notwithstanding the sometimes primitive surroundings, we are enabled to provide modern practise techniques which generate the required results’ said Dr Lawrence.
When asked whether he would be participating again in two years’ time in this rewarding experience, Dr Lawrence replied ‘if they want me back, I’ll be there with bells on’ he said.