In the context of AVVRG’s efforts to contribute to post-war reconstruction in Vietnam, The Long Tan Dental Project had its inception in Paul Murphy’s concerns about the dental health of young Vietnamese children. Money raised by members in WA funded the purchase of dental equipment for a dental surgery within a polyclinic adjacent to Long Tan Village and the site of the Battle of Long Tan.

The SA Branch, through Dr Colin Twelftree, was tasked with planning the surgeries, including the dental chair, units, steriliser and storage, as well as co-opting professional volunteer clinicians to provide dental care, initially for the local Long Tan community. To improve efficiency, another chair was purchased with funds provided by the International College of Dentists who continue to give financial support. There is one fully equipped surgery and another with dental chair and light, used mainly for examination, simple fillings and extractions.
The poly-clinic and dental surgeries were officially opened in 2006, with occasional teams (two/year) treating predominantly adults who presented to the clinic. The Principal from a local pre-school located a short distance from the clinic, asked that her 3-5 year old children be examined and from that initially exposure, the extent of rampant dental decay was obvious.

In addition, a non-functioning dental chair in Long Tan Primary School was replaced with modern equipment so that surgery could be used to treat those 6-12 year old children.
In 2012/13, the Long Tan pre-school relocated some kilometres from the Long Tan Clinic and that necessitated purchase of some portable equipment in order to maintain the dental care program which has become well established at the former location. This equipment was funded through support from the Dental Hygienists Association of Australia Inc and The International College of Dentists.

This equipment can also be used to convert the second surgery to a fully functional surgery.
In 2014, Nui Dat kindergarten was included in the project and mobile equipment facilitates this.
In 2015, Ms My Huong, an Australian/Vietnamese ‘air lift baby’ who has reunited with her Vietnamese mother and now lives in Vietnam where she has established an Orphanage in Vung Tau and a Day Centre in Long Hai, approached AVVRG and requested dental care for her children. AVVRG has been able to assist and these facilities are now included in the project.

We constantly receive requests from other community groups, schools and individuals and AVVRG seeks permission from the Vietnam Government to expand its reach in providing dental care to those in need.
This project is well supported by the profession and we consistently get requests to volunteer. Teams made up of dentists, dental hygienists, dental therapists and assistants now work at the clinic and other venues every two months. Many volunteers return for subsequent stints.

Initially, treatment was focussed on extraction for relief of pain and atraumatic restorative technique (ART dentistry) to manage tooth decay in children. GCAustralasia generously supply most of the GIC for this treatment. Simple adult restorative dentistry is also provided. There is increasing focus on prevention of decay and for that, Vietnamese speaking clinicians are most welcomed for providing dental health education. We also liaise with local dental practitioners and institutions, notably Colgate in Vietnam who supply educational aids as well as oral care packs for the children. Regular fluoride mouthrinsing and use of topical fluoride in the clinic setting contribute to the prevention aspect of the project.

A central element of volunteer projects such as this one is to empower local people. We are fortunate to have locally trained dental auxiliaries who usually screen school children and perform routine extractions for pain relief, working as part of our teams. These operators are invaluable for assisting with communication, process and protocols and education. They enthusiastically engage with team members to expand their dental knowledge. Thus these relationships are mutually beneficial.

The Long Tan Dental Clinic project has expanded significantly since its inception and may be on a path of continuing expansion under cooperative association with the Government of Vietnam.
Volunteers are the backbone of the project – the many and varied roles that volunteers offer are greatly appreciated. All expressions of interest are welcomed.

For more information, contact:

(Dentists) Dr Colin Twelftree – twelftree@internode.on.net – 0402 061 513
(Hygienists, Therapists, DAs) Lesley Denny – leslymac@internode.on.net – 0422 593 577

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