Amit Patel’s Guest Blog

Posted in: Blog, by Bridge2Aid Team, on 5th June 2019 | 0 comments

Amit Patel, Head Dentist at mydentist in Bognor Regis, volunteered on the Dental Training Programme in Chato District, Tanzania in September 2018. Here he talks about his experience and why he volunteered for Bridge2Aid.

Let me introduce Bridge2Aid, a charity set up by Ian and Andie Wilson in 2004 after ten years living in Tanzania. Before I tell you about the charity it is important to provide some perspective  so you understand what makes Bridge2Aid so different.

Imagine you wake up tomorrow with severe dental pain, what is the first thing you do? Most people would pick up their smart phone and ring  their dentist, book an appointment, pop into their car and then see a qualified healthcare professional to alleviate their pain. In our busy modern world, we lose perspective and assume that everyone has the same standard of living that we have. We are accustomed to a certain standard of care that we complain about having to take a day’s holiday or the lack of waiting room Wi-Fi, or having to spend money on fuel and transport. It is unfortunate, but we all, become so complacent that we don’t know any different.

Imagine a completely different world, a world where there is nowhere near the same level of infrastructure. For many people there is no smart phone, in fact there is no phone at all to call for help. If you are aware of a dentist being available the nearest is several hours or days drive away and even if you are aware there is no transport available. Then of course, there is the cost. The average daily earning of one dollar a day unfortunately won’t get you very far. This is the very level of frustration and desperation millions of Tanzanians endure every day.

Rather than simply carry out dental treatment Bridge2Aid has established a sustainable model of healthcare delivery. The charity was set up in 2004 and the first project took place in 2006. During these two years the charity affiliated itself with the Tanzanian government to be able to provide efficient and effective care over the whole of Tanzania. Since then Bridge2Aid has delivered a sustainable healthcare model by strengthening local healthcare systems specifically by training local healthcare workers in the provision of emergency dental treatment. The sustainable training model provides local healthcare workers with the essential skills they need to improve the lives of people in these local communities for the long term. Bridge2Aid do this by sending volunteers from the UK dental community to train these rural health workers. When the dental volunteer teams are deployed they don’t actually extract many teeth. Instead they train the clinical officers, local respected clinicians who are already skilled in a variety of medical procedures from dressing wounds to delivering babies. Their professionalism and aptitude absolutely amazed me. When I volunteered the clinical officers extracted about 150 teeth with the guidance of eight experienced dentists. Hand on heart, they received better training and experience than UK undergraduates.

In order that the clinical officers who pass are able to continue delivering treatment after the dental training at the end of the two weeks, they are presented with a set of extraction forceps and a steam pressure cooker powered by a gas canister, which does not require electricity. This for me personally is when the penny dropped how amazingly sustainable the charity is as this kit is then owned by the local district team in order that they can continue to deliver care after the training has been completed.

After the project ends and you return to the UK, you can rest assured there is a safe provision of services for the local Tanzanian community. The clinical officers are paid a small fee for whatever treatment they provide. This is all part of a sustainable and economically viable operating system.

The benefits for these communities go way beyond a simple tooth extraction. Debilitating pain prevents parents going to work providing for their family, it prevents school children from receiving a much-needed education, it prevents people feeling chastised from their communities. A simple tooth extraction can strengthen communities both economically and socially.


This is why Bridge 2 Aid excels beyond other charities and I urge you to get involved. You can fundraise and donate and if you are a dentist, hygiene therapist or a nurse then your time as a volunteer can be life changing for both you and the local Tanzanians.

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