Imagine you have a toothache or gum disease and have no means to pay for a dentist. What can you do but suffer in silence?
Thousands endured dental pain and general oral distress until Project Concern stepped in to meet the dental needs of the disadvantaged in Hong Kong.
Today Project Concern cares for the dental health of more than 50,000 people through four clinics and two mobile dental buses. The clinics are located in housing estates and the dental buses drive to visit welfare agencies and elder centers.
Ms. Ng Chu Lai Fong, the Executive Director of Project Concern, pointed out that this level of neighborhood access means assistance is not needed to accompany the patients to the care facilities.
The dental buses are impressive, they function as independent dental clinics complete with generators which provide power and light, and water tanks for fresh and used water.
When you board the bus - either via the stairs or via a special lift for disabled patients - you enter a small reception area and waiting room to be greeted by a receptionist.
Behind this area is a fully equipped dental surgery where the dentist and hygienist await you. An appointment is not necessary, but one can be made.
All seven clinics are staffed by volunteers and I had the pleasure of meeting two generous dentists, Dr. Wong who has been donating his time and expertise for 30 years and his young colleague who has provided his services for the last four years since he qualified.
Their dedication and professionalism were apparent as I watched them work with patients and witnessed the very full waiting rooms.
Over the past seven years the AWA has funded the purchase of dental equipment for Project Concern averaging $20,000 per year. The funding has provided equipment such as autoclaves for sterilization, dental descalers and descaling inserts. This equipment provides stable, smooth and consistent procedures to patients minimizing equipment stoppage and procedure interruption.
The programs have been so successful that the breadth of care now includes promoting preventative dentistry as, disadvantaged people usually wait until they are in an emergency situation before seeking help.
Now with increased accessibility of care, regular preventative dentistry is a welcome addition for those with nominal income who need support for their dental health.