September: Dental students in Peru | News and features

University of Bristol dental students Holly Wilson and Wiktoria Rejniak have been teaching young Peruvian children how to perfect their smiles.

The duo travelled to the South American country this summer to volunteer teaching English in a school. But they soon recognised that they’d have to deploy their other skills, as the children were suffering from poor dental hygiene.

Holly explained: “The country is far less developed than the UK and many of the children came from low income families.

“The children were so happy. Running around, constantly playing, coming for hugs, and smiling. We pretty quickly realised – given what we study – that there were lots of black spots over the children’s teeth, and some had missing teeth or even eroded small stumps.”

Holly and Wiktoria found out that only three in a class of 30 owned a toothbrush and sprang into action. They raided their local shop for toothbrushes and began delivering daily workshops.

Holly said: “We learnt the Spanish phrases for brushing in circles, two minutes, front back sides, twice a day and so on.

“To make it more fun, we took the children out in small groups of three and popped a timer on as a challenge to brush for the whole two minutes whilst demonstrating where they should brush.

“The rest of the children decorated their toothbrushes in the classroom as they waited their turn to make it fun!”

Wiktoria added: “The children were so happy and kept smiling and showing us how clean their teeth were- which was extremely rewarding!”

To maintain this healthy habit, the students suggested the children leave their toothbrushes at school and gave the paste to the teacher, just in case they forgot at home or their parents didn’t encourage it.

The pair’s experience has been invaluable as they enter their third year of study this September.

Holly, who decided to pursue dentistry after receiving four years of orthodontic treatment to fix her smile, said:

She said: “I suffered from complications such as hypodontia, impacted canines, and overcrowding. The treatment had such a positive impact on my life, improving my self-confidence and gifting me the little things like wanting to smile in pictures. I wanted to be able to give this to others.

“This has definitely made me consider the opportunities dentistry can provide worldwide, and further enforces the importance of prevention and education rather than just the restorative side of dentistry. These children are so happy, but soon they may lose their smiles and some already are, so the quicker we can spread the knowledge of the importance of oral hygiene the better.”

Wiktoria decided to study dentistry after snapping her front tooth playing netball. While receiving treatment, she got into a conversation with her dentist who offered her work experience which she snapped up.

“After a few weeks there I realised how much I loved it and how interesting I found all the different procedures which then led me to apply to dental school,” she explained.

“This has made me realise that you don’t need to wait to receive your degree to be able to help others, you can start now.”



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