In collaboration with the University of the Western Cape’s (UWC) Mobile Dental Clinic and generous support from Rotary and Colgate, The Dental Wellness Foundation (DWF) hit the road last week with this fully equipped van and treated over 250 children as part of its LiveSmart toothbrushing programme.
Over three days, the Dental Wellness Foundation, along with volunteers from the University of Western Cape, provided essential outreach dental care at Nyameko primary school in Mfuleni Cape Town to the school children and teachers which included screenings, preventative treatments and fillings. All dental treatment was provided pro bono.
Complete with three fully equipped dental chairs with screens to ensure patient privacy, this new mobile dental clinic includes a fully operational sterilisation area to clean and decontaminate the instruments. This UWC mobile dental clinic will now be used for all future outreach dental care, service delivery and research programmes and education sessions with the help of dental students from UWC and dental volunteers from the Dental Wellness Foundation.
Furthermore, to recognise the most dedicated students who participate in the daily toothbrushing programmes in the community, 500 children were invited to attend the 2022 graduation party. These are the children who participate in the evening toothbrushing programmes and demonstrate excellence in the LiveSmart toothbrushing programme. Each year, the Toothbrush Mamas who run the programme choose from over 20,000 children to attend a special ceremony event as a ‘thank you’ for their attendance and dedication. The event included live music and dancing and each child received a T-shirt which was sponsored by Ivodent, Thyrve Dental materials and DMG-Dental from Germany.
The Dental Wellness Foundation was also fortunate to receive part-funding for the transport from HCI Foundation, a gift voucher from Chequers/shoprite and a huge discount of bottled water from Aquasky, plus water donated by Enamel Clinic in Greenpoint, Cape Town.
The Dental Wellness Foundation works in collaboration with Colgate South Africa with the Bright Smiles, Bright Futures programme delivering the LiveSmart toothbrushing programmes to over 20,000 children in the townships of Mfuleni, Khayalitcha and Delft.
At the coal-face of the entire project is a dedicated group of extraordinary women referred to as Toothbrush Mamas. They run the Livesmart schools programme, visiting participating schools and providing each child with a toothbrush. The mamas teach the children how to brush their teeth and visit the schools and ECD’s daily to check on the programme and also teach the teachers to help the children with their daily hand washing and toothbrushing. The toothbrushes stay at the school and the children use them every day. Feedback from the children and their parents is the ‘well-being factor’ of feeling clean and healthy. Many children do not have their own toothbrush or toothpaste at home due to the high costs of these items. The LiveSmart daily programme now reaches 20,000 children in 360 schools in Cape town.
When Covid hit South Africa in 2020, the Dental Wellness Foundation responded to the rise in poverty and need for food security by introducing 12 soup kitchens — eight in Khayelitsha and four in Mfuleni. These were run by the sisterhood of ‘mamas’ who cooked the daily meals and then travelled to the schools to run the Livesmart programme whilst serving the food to queues of hungry people. Sadly, it has since been decided to close down the feeding scheme due to the huge cost. However, since April 2020 the charity has provided over 350,000 meals.
Dr Linda Greenwall, founder of the Dental Wellness Trust, says: “Thanks to our incredible sponsors, this was the first outing for our new mobile dental clinic and the facilities the van provided were paramount in enabling the children to receive such great care and treatment. It’s absolutely vital that we are able to continue providing our supervised tooth brushing programmes – especially for those living with poor oral health who are at an increased risk of many health complications.
“Our annual event was the icing on the cake and I want to give a special ‘thank you’ to the brilliant work of our 18 toothbrush mamas and to our sponsors which include Aquasky, DMG, Thryve Health, Ivodent, HCI Foundation and Shoprite. Without them, none of this would have been possible.”