Aneityium island 5 May 2010 10:31 PM

Cub reporter Dr Tony Burke reports on his first day pulling teeth and administering dentalcare in Vanuatu

After enduring yesterdays arduous journey by sea from Tanna (see yesterday’s log), I was very pleased to sleep in the calm conditions of the lagoon as Anatom (Aneityium) Island, less than a stones throw from the beaches of Mystery Island – a popular port of call on the cruise ship itinerary.

I arrived at the mission medical centre to be greeted by one of the medicos who informed me they already had a list of ten plus names that required dental treatment. As I was only expecting a day of examinations, I had to reformulate the plans for the day.

Bob and Shirley, the Ni-Van healthcare workers learning about dentalcare were quickly given a crash course in tooth charting and we set to work. As an important part to the dental project is to map the dental experience of the indigenous people of Vanuatu, we were very pleased to obtain 20 plus examinations of children aged approx. 6 and 12 (plus or minus 1yr was accepted). The dental clinic consisted of a standard wooden backed chair, a portable table and lighting from my divers torch – protected from the ever present tropical rain under the veranda of the clinic.

I was initially pleased to be presented with the beautiful smiles we associate with Melanesian culture in the first five kids in the 12 year age group. This initial impression was then sadly dashed by an eleven year old that will need most of his teeth removed in the next year (which probably will not happen). Cases like this point-out how far away from treatment options these delightful people are.

On the very practical side, I was able to remove eight teeth and retained tooth roots from four locals. The conditions were not to my usual comfort levels (especially the primitive infection control) but I am certain the relief of pain and associated infection was greatly appreciated.

We already have two patients booked for tomorrow and expect a larger number of extraction cases now news that the “toot doctor” is in town. I hope I find time for lunch.

If the rain lessens and the sun comes out, I will be practicing in paradise.

We don’t bulk-bill, but I’m open to accepting bananas, grapefruit and pineapples.

Tony Burke