Fiji – Palm trees, sunshine, and a whole lot of mouths to empty

Raumati Dental Surgeon Gary Lawrence recently returned from an epic dentisry mission to Tavenui Island in Fiji.

Mr Lawrence was guest speak at the Kāpiti Rotary Club and told members of a fascinating journey that began in dentistry about 35 years ago. He said a friend went to the South Pacific Islands to give free dental care and it was his intention to do the same.

In June, Mr Lawrence and three colleagues from around New Zealand set out for Taveuni Island in Fiji. With a population of around 18,000 Tavenui Island has chronic dentistry problems. Mr Lawrence and the team set up mobile dental units at schools, mainly working outside in pretty rudimentary conditions (as you can see from the picture).

Mr Lawrence said the introduction of a western diet mainly sugary foods has led to a serious deterioration in dental health. “The kids from schools closest to groceries stores had the worst teeth.”

In the nine days they were on the island the team saw 706 patients. They did 742 extractions, 283 periodontal treatments, and a staggering 1033 fillings.

Mr Lawrence says the project had a budget of $13,000 and he is planning to get another team back there in two years.