The FDI World Dental Federation has recognized the Palestinian Dental Association with a Smile Award for its Dental-Point Project, which provides urgently needed oral healthcare to people living in a pair of migrant camps on Lesvos Island and in Athens in Greece.
The Palestinian Dental Association supports the dental relief work of the Health-Point Foundation, which has been treating adults and children suffering from severe dental pain as well as dental and oral infections.
The Dental-Point Project clinic is the sole provider of dental treatment and other oral health services in the Moria camp on Lesvos Island. In addition to emergency dental treatment, the clinic offers oral health education to demonstrate toothbrushing techniques, provides dietary advice, and shows children how to take care of their oral health.
Also, the clinic regularly distributes toothpaste and toothbrushes, and volunteer oral health professionals apply fluoride gel and silver diamine fluoride to patients’ teeth. The project aims to recruit even more oral health professionals to ensure a continuity of care throughout the year.
Seeds of Humanity, another Palestinian foundation, takes part in the joint project as well. It provides support for refugees and sends volunteers to the two locations. The Dental-Point Project and the Smile Award help both foundations keep the missions running and treat patients wherever the need is.
The project also has built a strong relationship with the Greek Health Ministry, especially the Hellenic Public Health Organization, which is responsible for public health support for refugees and other minority groups.
“Creating any project, it’s not easy, as most of the funding goes to other medical (non-oral health) projects, even though there is an increasing need for dental care and oral health education,” said Dr. Ahmad Abd El Ghani, Dental-Point Project leader.
“As the funding is a critical issue, I’m very grateful for the Smile Award, for FDI, and for everyone who has helped us make this work come true. Since the beginning of the project, thanks to the flexibility of our volunteers, we have been lucky enough to provide a continuous presence in our clinics,” he said.
So far, Dental-Point volunteers have delivered almost 250 treatments for patients between the ages of 2 and 65. Treatments included medication, fillings, extractions, scaling and polishing, pulpotomies, dry sockets, abscess drainage, and pulp extirpation.
Last year, the clinic in the Moria camp received approximately 4,300 patients alone, which means about 80 to 85 patients per week, or 16 to 20 each day.
While the project aims to recruit even more oral health professionals to ensure continuity of care throughout the year, the COVID-19 pandemic has halted the implementation of its planned third and fourth phases.
Missions are currently suspended on the ground, and dental clinics are closed to protect staff and prevent the spread of infection to the camps. However, the project continues to operate at a reduced capacity in the Health-Point Foundation medical clinic to provide antibiotics and pain relief for any dental emergencies.
The FDI notes that the all member states in the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights agree that all categories of migrants should receive the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
However, the FDI continues, this standard has not yet been met, especially in oral health. To meet the goal outlined by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to leave no one behind, the health needs of refugees and migrants should be addressed accordingly, FDI says.
Poor health conditions and overcrowding are common in many migrant camps, FDI says. As a highly vulnerable population, refugees and migrants have a high prevalence of dental disease and unmet dental care needs, the group adds.
Lack of financial resources, insufficient sanitation and hygiene facilities, overreliance on emergency services, language and cultural barriers, and low oral health literacy all can contribute to poor oral health outcomes, FDI says.
In 2018, FDI launched the Refugee Oral Health Promotion and Care Project to gather data on different countries’ experiences, solutions, and epidemiological data on providing oral care to refugees specifically. This data will be synthesized to develop clinical, policy, and societal recommendations to ensure better oral health outcomes for refugees and migrants.
The Smile Award serves to support and promote an original preventive oral care project at the local level. Valued at $5,000, it recognizes FDI member national dental associations that are implementing innovative and sustainable community outreach projects to improve oral health outcomes in their countries.