Team Ladakh. Dr Seema Vohra (sitting) with (from left) Dr Rajmeet Kaur, Dr Richa Naik, Harsha Makhija and and Dr Rashnavi Masalawala Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/XPRESS

Dubai: Four Dubai dentists have shown what it is to go above and beyond the call of duty by setting up a permanent clinic for needy children in the remote mountain ranges of Ladakh in India.

Dr Seema Vohra, who spearheaded the initiative at the behest of one of her patients, told XPRESS that the foursome, working in various clinics in Dubai, undertook the task in their personal capacities.

Besides her, the other unlikely ‘tooth fairies’ included Dr Rashnavi Masalawala, Dr Rajmeet Kaur and Dr Richa Naik.

She said the journey to Shey village in Leh of Ladakh began with a chance conversation she had with patient Harsha Makhija. “Harsha, who is based in Dubai, is actively involved with children studying at the Druk Padma Karpo School in Leh. She was apparently informed by the school nurse that many of these kids suffered from dental problems. Since they lived in the hostel, it was a challenge to take them for routine dental visits and subsequent treatment. The school, she was told, was looking for dentists, ophthalmologists and dermatologists who could reach out to them.”

No access

Dr Vohra said something about the story touched her and she found herself responding to the call. “Many of these children were orphans being raised by old grandparents or foster parents, while some others were from remote villages who have no access to dental treatment. The school had around 200 such kids whose education and hostel fees were being sponsored.”

Dr Vohra said the three other dentists readily supported the initiative and they were all set to travel to Leh in the last week of June.

Harsha, who initiated the project and helped raise funds for its implementation, said, “There are no accidents in life and we are all instrumental in making a change.”

In the one week that the team was in Shey, they treated 85 children – covering everything from cleanings, fillings and providing preventive dental sealants to doing extractions.

Not used to the harsh weather conditions of the area, which is at an elevation of 11,400 feet, the dentists needed a day to adapt themselves to the new environment.

Using state-of-the-art dental equipment and maintaining strict sterilisation protocols had its share of challenges, as did their decision to set up a full-fledged clinic.

“We set up a complete dental unit at the school. There is an automatic chair, compressor, motorised suction, X-ray unit, light cure unit, ultrasonic scaler, high-end sterilisers etc. The clinic is equipped to carry out all dental procedures, including minor oral surgeries. The school nurse has also been adequately trained. We donated a generator to the school since electricity supply was erratic,” said Dr Vohra. The team said they used disposable materials and instruments as there could be no compromise made in the quality of treatment rendered to the children.

“We carried out dental hygiene workshops in small groups to teach them correct brushing techniques and the importance of good oral health. At the end of each procedure, we gave away small rewards to each kid to reinforce good oral health. The smiles on their faces were priceless,” said Dr Vohra.

The team also drew up detailed records of each patient examined so that weekly follow-ups could be conducted by a local dentist. Volunteers from Dubai too would visit the school every quarter for subsequent treatment and help maintain the highest standards of protocol.

“We plan to have experienced dentists in the school all year round in groups of twos and threes. We need more volunteers. We aim to treat 750 students and 50 staff enrolled in the school. And once that is achieved, we plan to offer our services to the public in the neighbouring villages so that they can also benefit from these facilities.”


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