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Dental Volunteering in the “New Jungle”

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Dental Volunteering in the “New Jungle”

Mohamed Jaffer graduated in 2013 from Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry.

After completing foundation training Mohamed worked as an Oral and Maxillofacial Dental Core Trainee at the Eastman Dental Hospital, University College London Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital. Mohamed is currently a Trust Dentist at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

The aim of this article is to raise awareness and inspire fellow young dentists to volunteer wherever the journey may take them.

In December 2015 I had the oppourtunity to volunteer as a dentist in the Calais refugee camp, also known as the new jungle. The camp is home to approximately 6,000 refugees, an increase of 4,500 since the summer of 2015. The refugees come from various countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Syria. They live in makeshift tents which are sprawled across the camp. Dirt roads connect one area to another. There are several charities and individuals who provide help. One of these charities is the Manchester Refugee Crisis which has set up an on-site medical area. The medical area consists of four caravans. Three of these caravans provide basic first aid. The fourth caravan provides dental treatment. To volunteer individuals are required to register through a database on social media. The aim of this is to formalise the process and allow for a steady service.

After registering and arranging indemnity with Dental Protection I was ready to head out with four other volunteers. We formed a team which consisted of three dentists, an Orthopaedic surgeon and a humanities undergraduate. After a two hour car journey and 30 minutes on the Eurotunnel shuttle we had arrived in France. We first headed to our accommodation to check-in. From there we went to the refugee camp where we met up with a local social worker who showed us around the medical area. The dental caravan consisted of two portable beds, an autoclave, an amalgamator, a light cure unit, dental instruments and supplies. The equipment had been donated by Dentaid and several individuals. An electricity supply was arranged with the help of a charity called Miracle Street who operate a mobile generator at the site. Word spread quickly that dentists had arrived and before we knew it people were approaching us requesting treatment. We had to ask them to come back tomorrow as we had just arrived and needed to prepare. Energised by the need for treatment we spent the rest of the day cleaning and arranging the caravan for the next day.

The next day we arrived at the camp ready to treat. Two of the dentists in the group were bilingual which meant we could communicate easily with Farsi and Urdu speaking patients. To communicate with patients who spoke other languages such as Arabic we used the help of refugees who acted as translators. The dental caravan was divided into two areas. The first area was a triage and dispensing area. The second area was for treatment. Due to the constraints in space patients would queue outside the caravan. The patients would then be triaged as to their complaint and a history of their complaint would be taken. Patients would then move to the treatment area where after diagnosis they would be consented for treatment. A typical patient would present with multiple gross carious lesions and symptoms of reversible or irreversible pulpitis. Due to limited equipment treatment was restricted to Ledermix dressings, Glass Ionomer Cement restorations, incision and drainage of abscesses, and irrigation with Chlorhexidine for Pericoronitis. After treatment patients would return to the triage area for post-operative instructions, medication if required and be given a toothbrush and toothpaste as a preventive measure. We operated a rotating system with either the triage dentist or one of the dentists acting as the nurse.

In total we managed to treat 43 patients. A particular case which I recall is of a 10 year old Syrian girl who attended with her father who was also seeking dental treatment. She complained of a mobile URC although she had gross caries of her deciduous molars. She was relieved to know that the tooth would come out by itself.

Volunteering is a very rewarding experience. This was the first time I had been to France, the first time I met individuals from far and wide and the first time I had been in a caravan. Best of all knowing someone is out of pain and will have a good night’s sleep because of the treatment I provided as a dentist is a great feeling.

Mohamed Jaffer


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