Most people relate a trip to Fiji as a holiday treat but for Raumati Dental Surgeon Gary Lawrence it is more a mission of mercy.
Mr Lawrence has completed five trips to Fiji, the latest as team leader for the Rotary Volunteer Dental Aid Project to Tavenui Island.
On the island there is just one government salaried resident dentist to serve around 18,000 locals.
Dr Lawrence, a highly respected dental surgeon in Kāpiti for 40 years, says there is a large unmet need for dental treatment in the general population.
He was joined on the trip by Dr Ray Joe of Auckland, Dr Ricky Gee (Lower Hutt), and Dr Elizabeth Cornille-Langley of Hamilton.
“They don’t have the infrastructure there so we get as much done as we can in the time available,” says Dr Lawrence.
“The aim is to target children in the last two years of primary school and make them dentally fit heading into High School the following year. We also put a lot of emphasis on preventative care.”
The team did a staggering total of 748 examinations with 645 Restorations, 454 Fissure Sealants and 253 Extractions.
“We have kept records for 10 years and over this time Dental Health has improved in many schools, however there is a large amount of restorative and preventative work still required,” says Dr Lawrence.
He says much of the dental decay is due to the ready availability of cheap sugary foods and drinks.
Dr Lawrence says the biggest issue they encountered was the very high rate of students affected by rheumatic heart disease.
“Eighteen out of 113 students at one school had encountered this life threatening disease. I want to start a programme to deal with this. It needs equipment and personnel. Ready access to antibiotics in the community could drastic reduce the numbers affected.
“For those who have this disease an abscess infection can be lethal if untreated.”
Dr Lawrence says they have been fortunate to have generous sponsorship for the aid programme from the Margaret Blackwell Trust and the Chester Bellis Memorial Trust in Kāpiti.
“We are very grateful for their support and to the Rotary Clubs of Remuera, Hutt Valley and Kāpiti and Rotary District 9940 who gave a $4000 district grant, and the Rotary Club of Boronia, Australia.”
Meanwhile it’s back to work at his practice in Raumati as GJ Lawrence Dental until next year when the next mission to Fiji takes place.
For more information GJ Lawrence Dental Ltd can be contacted by phone at (04) 6509509 or the website www.raumatidental.co.nz