(Article written by Dr. Vivienne Levy and published by The New Zealand Dental Association magazine May 2009 issue ) Dr Vivienne Levy journeys deep into India to help with the local tooth decay epidemic. .. Ladakh Is an extremely remote region of India situated on the north side of the great Himalayan mountain…read more
The Himalayan Dental Project
Define the problem and solve it
The oral health care crisis in Ladakh was undeniably brought to our attention when a dentist from New Zealand who had come to Ladakh for a trekking expedition was curious about his impression that children living in such a remote area would have excellent quality teeth. We were all quite shocked when his random examination of about 50 students from the Lamdon School in Leh exposed an epidemic of tooth decay. Virtually every child had extremely decayed teeth despite the fact that many of them were less than 10 years old. From that need arose the concept and ambition of The Himalayan Dental Project. Over the next 10 years we collaborated with several large teams of international dentists from Singapore, New Zealand and The United States that came to Ladakh to set up rudimentary dental camps in remote locations to bring basic oral health care to those in such desperate need.
Where we started in 2007
It is impossible to overstate the contributions and inspirations in those first years provided by Dr Myra Elliott, a renowned oral surgeon from Singapore. Myra mobilized impressive teams of dentists and oral health care professionals from Singapore and came to Ladakh determined to treat as many of the locals as possible. Her teams examined and treated hundreds of patients living in some of the most remote areas in all of Ladakh.
Dr Myra Elliott
These first humanitarian dental expeditions were extremely beneficial, but not sustainable as far as time and cost effectiveness. The physicians were also restrained by water, space and electrical limitations as well as the perils of isolation in the event of equipment failure. While we continued the humanitarian medical expeditions to the far reaches of the Indus and Nubra Valleys, we started plans to build a centralized treatment “basecamp” in the capital city of Leh where we could bring patients for vastly improved diagnosis and treatment after we identified their conditions in the field.
Construction began on the clinic complex in 2011 and today it is a fully operational dental clinic with virtually every modern facility for world class dentistry. Our clinic is staffed by our resident dentist from Sweden, Dr Marie Nordstrom who, along with our support staff of nurses and hygienists, work together with our international dental volunteers to enable us to bring quality oral health care to the people of Ladakh free of charge.
Where we are in 2017
Our dental clinic has four fully functional and autonomous treatment chairs in addition to two separate cleaning, scaling and dental hygiene stations When we host large teams of dental volunteers, we can add 2>3 additional temporary stations to maximize our productivity potential. We now have full radiology capability in addition to all the basic dental treatment and repair facilities. Our mandate of "Extraction as a last resort" is supported by full endodontic equipment and supplies. There are virtually no logistical limitations to the treatment we can bring to bear for the welfare of our patients.
Mission Statement for 2017
- Continue our oral health education programs and distribution of free toothbrushes and toothpaste to the local schools.
- Continue our daily operations in the dental clinic to provide excellent quality dental care to any person who requires it free of charge.
- Expand the reach of the benefits we can bring to bear by sending screening teams out to distant locations to examine the inhabitants of remote villages and then transporting those who require dental treatment back to our main clinic facility
- Hire locally trained dental hygienists and perhaps even a licensed dentist to work in the clinic to not only provide additional services, but also make our clinic an inspirational employment opportunity for local students who might be motivated to pursue a career in medicine with the assurance they can return home to gainful and beneficial employment in our clinic.
- Expand our capabilities to Nepal where we have established an alliance with a wonderful dentist named Dr Tsering Gurung. Dr Gurung has a splendid dental clinic in Kathmandu and we have collaborated with her and her staff on a number of very beneficial and productive oral health care camps for orphans and monks in Kathmandu as well in the remote Manang region of Nepal. We want to bring her to Ladakh to work in our clinic during the summer monsoon in Nepal and share our capabilities and humanitarian aspirations with her clinic and staff in Nepal during the winter months in Ladakh when the clinic is not operational.
- Continue to host highly skilled international surgical teams that can come to Ladakh and utilize the splendid surgical facilities at our partner hospital at The Mahabodhi Center in the village of Saboo. The 20 successful surgeries that Dr Myra Elliott and her team performed in 2016 have started such a positive word of mouth networking amongst the Ladakhi locals that we already have many similar cases requesting the same level of oral surgical treatment.
Through collaboration with major humanitarian organizations in the United States and Austria, a second portable dental control unit will be purchased in May of 2009. Rota-Dent, under the direction of Mr. LeRoy Benham and the sponsorship of Rotary Clubs of Newberg, Oregon are making available world class dental equipment at subsidized prices for humanitarian dental…read more
1. Dr. Myra Elliott has now brought two major dental & medical teams to Ladakh in 2008 & 2009 and has successfully treated over 2,000 Ladakhi patients for a wide range of dental, visual and general health issues. 2. Dr. Marcus Ang, an eye specialist on the 2009 team, uncovered another major health crisis in the…read more
Dr. Elliott’s team arrived in Nubra Valley and after a greeting by most of the community, immediately set up a fully operational dental clinic in the dining hall of Lamdon School in the main village of Disket. In addition, several other classrooms were utilized for private clinics specializing in eye care, general medical conditions as…read more