IN BRIEF Marquette Research IN BRIEF
Tanzanian refugees receive dental education from a camp health care worker.
ON A MISSION TO IMPROVE REFUGEE DENTAL CARE When Dr. Toni Roucka first arrived at
“The biggest concern we had was that
clinics at the refugee camps and to provide
many patients might return to the dental
a 1920s dental chair in the corner of a
a two-week training course in emergency
clinic with post-operative complications
dark room. There was no running water,
dental care and health promotion to 12
after treatment,” she says. “What we found
no dental X-ray equipment and very little
refugee health care workers.
was the students followed our instructions
space to set up instruments. The floor was a muddy mess.
Through lectures and clinical training, the dentists taught refugee workers how
to the T.” In fact, of the nearly 2,000 patient visits
More than 50,000 refugees living in the
to do basic exams and triage procedures,
recorded at the clinics from November 2007
Mtabila and Nyarugusu camps in the Kigoma
administer anesthesia, manage infections,
to August 2009, fewer than one percent
region of Tanzania receive dental treatment
and prioritize treatments while also stress-
returned with pain, swelling or bleeding —
— primarily tooth extractions — in these
ing the importance of patient management
proving to Roucka that the model works.
conditions, typically delivered by health care
and oral health education.
providers with no formal dental training. “When you look at the big picture — food, safety, shelter — dental care is a low priority, but it is a quality of life issue,” says
This model for providing access to
Next, she hopes to return to Tanzania to monitor the long-term progress of the pro-
dental care in refugee camps is the first of
gram and then introduce it with a camp
its kind, according to Roucka.
population in another cultural environment.
The focus of the trip was training.
She will also continue to provide care
Roucka, an assistant professor of general
Roucka’s research looked at whether this
in the Dominican Republic and other
dentistry in Marquette’s School of Dentistry
kind of training was self-sustaining, portable
nations through Compassionate Dental
whose research on refugee dental care was
and repeatable. She returned to the camps
Care International, a nonprofit agency she
published last year in the International
in 2008 to evaluate the progress of the
founded in 2005 to deliver dental care to
health care workers since the first training
those in need. — ALB
Improving dental care for underserved
dentists in 2007 to establish small dental
the Tanzanian refugee camp, she found
and to provide a two-week refresher
populations is a passion for Roucka. She
course. In 2009, she returned once more to
first traveled to Tanzania with three other
evaluate the program’s success.