I chose Ghana because it’s very close to Nigeria which is the country that I was born in. It’s somewhere that I’ve always been interested in going to.
Taking part in the dental placement is an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life and I did everything in my power to ensure that it happened.
This consisted of doing a lot of fundraising, which involved me teaching a ‘Get Fit’ exercise class which is something I had never done before and definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone! It turned out to be really fun and eventually got me to my fundraising target!
The whole process was seamless. The Work the World team ensured that each step of the way, arriving at the airport, my accommodation and my hospital placement, were all planned out.
I loved being immersed in the Ghanaian culture and everyone I met was super friendly!
We encountered a patient that had a large firm swelling on his lower jaw which he’d had for six months. It was causing him pain and some of his teeth were becoming mobile. After taking radiographs and aspirating it seemed to be some form of keratocyst, which is something I had only read about and not seen in real life. In order to confirm this, we referred him to a specialist unit where they will be able to find out the exact problem and treat him.
My favourite and most memorable aspect of my placement was going out into schools to teach them about oral health and providing them with various resources such as toothbrushes that they could use after I had left.
Prevention is key and this is especially important with children as they will grow up remembering the things that they were taught and hopefully put it into practice and pass it on to their friends, families and their own children one day, which would prevent them from having tooth decay in the future. I remember there was one little boy that was so engaged and took the model out of my hands to demonstrate to everyone else how to brush correctly and before I left he said “When I grow up I want to be a dentist so I can show more people how to brush their teeth!”
I also visited a junior high school in Takoradi to deliver an interactive oral health lesson. All the students were really enthusiastic about learning more about their oral health and what they could do to improve their knowledge and technique. At the beginning of the lesson hardly any of the students knew the answers to the questions that we were asking, but by the end, almost every single hand was raised!
After the lesson, we screened over 100 students and I saw some interesting cases. The students that had signs of decay were given an urgent referral note for them to come to the hospital for treatment. We also gave those children toothbrushes and toothpaste to use when they returned back to their homes. It was a very successful day and I really enjoyed watching them learn, even the teachers learnt a lot!
Being in Ghana really highlighted the differences between dentistry abroad and dentistry in the UK.
The dentists in Ghana had very limited resources and were still required to conduct the same exact procedures that we do on a day to day basis. For example, when the light on the chair was not functioning, they had to use the light from their mobile phones which can be unreliable. But I found that despite this, they would always find a way to use their initiative and make things work.
Through this experience, I learnt a lot about the attitudes towards dental care within the community. I also feel that it allowed me to grow and develop as an individual and gain a passion for teaching others.
I formed a strong bond with all of the staff in the dental department and it was difficult saying my goodbyes on the last day.
I definitely learnt a lot from the main dentist at the hospital. He was very patient and guided me along the way during the time that I spent in there. I formed a strong bond with all of the staff in the dental department and it was difficult saying my goodbyes on the last day.
In the evenings, we had time to explore Takoradi and visit the local Market Circle to get some of the wonderful fabrics and other great bargains that we could find!
One weekend, we visited Kakum National Park which is a protected area of rainforest located on the south coast of Ghana. We had a tour guide that showed us around and explained the history of the park, which was very informative. We walked across the seven canopy walkways which come to a total of 350m long and over 130ft off the ground. It was a scary but fun experience that I would definitely do again! The view from the top was absolutely beautiful.
My only regret was not staying longer!
Taking a placement overseas is an experience that I would recommend to everybody. It's an experience that will shape you, open your eyes to new things and leave you with memories that you can treasure forever. My only regret was not staying longer!