Restoring smiles in Cambodia

Monday 13 Jul 2015

The figures from an international study trip to Cambodia by 12 Charles Sturt University (CSU) students are impressive.

The dental science and oral health students treated 557 patients, mainly children, with another 95 consultations during the international study experience in June and July.

Working with a local non-government organisation, One 2 One, the students from CSU in Orange and Wagga Wagga extracted 679 teeth, restored 308 teeth completed over 1 000 fissure sealants.

Dentist Dr Graham McLennan from Orange accompanied the students and estimates the dental treatment provided would be worth $250,000 in Australian fees.

"The students gave out 100s of toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste which was a strange event to many of the orphans and street children as well as young people treated in a school at Svay Reing on the Cambodia-Vietnam border," he said.

"Some adults were also treated including those from a slum village as well as a fruit factory whose employees have been permanently injured by land mines."

Classrooms became make-shift clinics and oral health student Ms Kimberley Smithson from Wagga Wagga said the challenging conditions made the work even more rewarding.

"With a bench as a dental chair and a headlight for lighting we saw patients continuously for hours. The weather was unforgiving, the drinking water was warm and the fans provided seemed to only rotate the hot air around the room," she said.

"The most rewarding moment of this trip was seeing the smiling faces on all those who we treated.

Photo of CSU student Ms Kimberly Smithson with children in Cambodia"We learnt the language very quickly to enable effective communication between ourselves and the patients. Basic phrases such as hello, my name is, open, close, pain, spit, good boy, good girl ensured we, as clinicians, could have some communication with our patient. Interpreters were on hand when required.

"It was a privilege to be able to work on the smiles of such a vulnerable community, one that is always smiling."

Dental science student Ms Caitlin Crowley from Orange said, "The majority of the children I treated had been in pain for months or years yet were still so happy, always smiling and seemed very thankful for us being there.

"They were incredibly brave and it's extremely rewarding to know that we have helped them in some way.

"This is definitely not the first and last time I will volunteer my dental skills to those less fortunate, I look forward to being able to do it again."

Photo of CSU students playing soccerDr McLennnan said, "The students were welcomed by the Deputy Prime Minister and leaders of the province of Svay Reing. They were escorted by four Cambodia military personnel.

 "The only upset during the two-week trip was the Charles Sturt University students were beaten by the street children in a game of soccer in the slum village school."

The Cambodia: One 2 One Dentistry and Oral Health Program is organised with the support of CSU Global. While students are eligible to apply for a $500 Vice Chancellor Travel Grant, each student paid they own way.

The students also had a sobering visit to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, the site of a prison during the brutal reign of the Khmer Rouge under leader Pol Pot from 1975 to 1979, as well as the Choeung Ek, the "killing fields" just outside the capital. The group also travelled north to Siem Reap to visit the famous temples of Angkor Wat.


Media contact: Ms Emily Malone and Ms Fiona Halloran, (02) 6933 2207

Media Note:

Cambodia: One 2 One Dentistry and Oral Health Program ran from Saturday 21 June until Sunday 5 July. Further information is available from CSU Media

The three-year Bachelor of Oral Health (Therapy/Hygiene) is offered through CSU in Wagga Wagga.

The five-year Bachelor of Dental Science is offered through CSU in Orange.

The CSU Oral Health and Dental Clinics are open to the public in Albury-Wodonga, Bathurst, Dubbo, Orange and Wagga Wagga. Read more here.

Photo captions:

CSU oral health student Ms Kimberley Smithson with some of the children treated in Cambodia.

CSU students playing soccer with the children in the slum village school.

The video was taken at a school in a poor district in Svay Reing Province near the Cambodian-Vietnam border.