Kenyan dental delegation visits California

Six leading dental professionals from the Kenya Dental Association recently visited Northern California, including CDA headquarters, as part of a 10-day training program to help develop and promote oral health education activities for a program called Kenya Smiles, aiming to improve the oral health of children in the African country, particularly remote areas.

Besides spending time at CDA, the delegation, which included Kenya’s chief dentist and dental school professors, the delegation visited dental schools as well as the State Capitol to be recognized for their work and learn more about advocacy efforts on behalf of children’s oral health. The delegation also met with members of the California Legislative Black Caucus in addition to Senator Bill Emmerson, DDS, (R-Redlands), to discuss current dental policy issues in California and the Kenya Smiles program. 

“The whole thrust of the program is to get Kenyans to go out in the field and teach kids about preventive dentistry – brushing, toothpaste and diet,” said Jim Green, DDS, a general dentist in Antioch who has traveled to Africa nine times as part of a Rotary District 5160 program. “In Kenya, the needs are tremendous. There are 40 million people and fewer than one thousand dentists, and the bulk are in the big cities. There are no dentists in remote areas,” Green said.

The Kenya delegation spent time at the UCSF School of Dentistry to learn how to use portable equipment that will be sent to Kenya for use in remote areas as well as how to teach children preventive care techniques. The delegation also visited the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry and spent an afternoon at the State Capitol to learn more about the issues affecting dentistry in California.

“The interaction with the university students and lecturers helped us identify and share our experiences regarding how to deal will provision and maintenance of good oral health in children,” said Linus Ndegwa, a dental surgeon at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi. “We also learned about how to formulate and carry out a greatly needed national oral health survey. The visit to the mobile clinics and rural hospitals gave us an outlook of how pediatric dental care is provided in such circumstances,” Ndegwa said.

Green has traveled to Africa nine times, ever since a friend who is an ophthalmologist invited him to provide care at a clinic in Zambia. Since then, he has organized trips in which volunteers provide care, or in the case of a scheduled trip later this month, to teach Kenyans how to promote oral health education in areas that lack access to care.  

“What we’re trying to do is teach enough Kenyans to go to rural areas in schools and provide a preventive dentistry program,” said Green, who added that his team has collected 5,000 donated backpacks filled with dental kits, crayons and other items to be distributed to children in the city of Nyrobi and the town of Meru.

Green appreciates the cooperation from CDA and ADA that he has received for his program by allowing him to utilize educational materials already created for caries prevention.

“We all have the same goal – to keep these little kids healthy,” said Green. “Dentists are extremely supportive – the most caring group of professionals you could ever meet.”