An Overview of Dental Camp

I was recommended to detail about the work that was done during the dental camps I visited last month. I figured that by sharing, I can perhaps shed some light on a part of India that few people are aware of.


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Mommy ❤ Right before the start of the second camp

My mother, Dr Pratibha Athavale, has been conducting dental camps as a freelancer for seventeen years. This means there is no government, religious or politically driven body behind this. She ties up with different socio-voluntary organisations whose the only objective is “seva” or service. And that too in the part of the country mostly neglected. The states she has visited are mostly the seven sisters in the North-East India, home to hundreds of tribes and thousands of dialects, which are often limited since there is NO script.

Some of the tribes are relatively developed and have access (albeit broken) to power, network, education etc. On the other hand, some are still clad in loincloths and lead primitive lifestyles. The sanitation checks start from making them aware of the importance of washing their hands and mouths let alone brushing their teeth. This has led to her working with and for all sorts of people – and the takeaway is the same. We may be distinct in terms of culture and traditions but our core values are the same.

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Meet my buddy – he came every day to Hi5! 🙂 P.S. Not a single child cried while they were being administered injections.

This year the camp was in Manipur covering three tribal villages and the camps were for three days in each. A little less than 1000 patients were treated in total – the treatments including scalings and extractions. Medication was provided and clinical advise was also given on a case by case basis. Needless to say, this was completely free of cost! It was amazing to see my mom in such a different light. She was super-woman! At 64, she was on her feet from 7 to 7 with cups of tea and light snacks as sustenance. She needed no fuel – she was operating on pure will and determination.

The dental camp in full swing! Setting up the camp is so much fun 🙂 Thinking through the layout, the power, the lighting!

How does a dental camp work given the complexity of equipments? Well, over the years based on her experiences, Mom has put together a portable clinic complete with a dental chair, compressor, sterilizer and the other fancy stuff. A doctor by profession, she channeled her untapped engineering mind into assembling this.

A great team based in the different states ensures operational stability in the camps. These people have given up their families, their jobs and dedicated their lives completely for the upliftment of these tribes. While the impact at the ground level happens in oral health, another subtle yet powerful turn takes place in the minds of the people. There is a human connect happening with these tribes that has never happened before or has always been at a very base level. This medium starts a dialogue which can further progress into a potential road to bring them into mainstream society!

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Two local assistants from the first village – They picked up the work in a flash and were eager to learn.

I was lucky to be a part of this movement for sometime and tried to make a small difference. After a long time, I came back with a sense of community! It’s a good feeling alright.


Do let me know if you have more questions or wish to support the different initiatives taking place for the North-East states.

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Catharsis

For the last few months, I was operating on auto-pilot with the simplest default mode on. I was probably worse than a robot as at least a robot, has some direction configured. If someone had asked me to describe myself, then I’d have been at a loss! Let’s see what could have fit …

A process consultant? Eh!

An aspiring writer? I wish!

A health enthusiast? There have been days!

An experimental baker? Huh huh!

A questioning traveller? I try!

An awesome flower-chaser? Well… Yes!

That is one out of six … one and half if I give myself some benefit of doubt. That’s about it.

But now … I have at least one answer.

That I am still a person – and not a bad one at that. My consistent second-guessing of my mental state and of the Void I was peddling in is at peace. I am loving this … experience – it’s not quite a vacation- I don’t want to box it in. I have earlier written about the work my mother has been doing in the tribal village areas of Northeast India – possibly the most cut-off part of the country both culturally and geographically.

Since five days I have been immersed in the medical camps and the cathartic sense of purpose. These days are more real to me than the last few months. I am with people who still struggle for the most basic of facilities – for whom the word “doctor” is a distant dream. Yet the warm welcome, the outstanding hospitality and attention to details are simply wonderful! There is no power play, there is no politics, there is no personal vendetta. These are people who know work has to be done and are bent over backwards to ensure the dental camps operate smoothly.

No hiccup is too bad. No hurdle is too great. Why worry when there is a problem to be solved? Where there is a will… there is a way or at least a workaround! (I witnessed numerous classic textbook examples). Here I worried about my future, my life decisions while these people have no idea about their present. Yet they smile, yet they toil and yet they put the people above the individual. And for these fleeting moments, I am a part of this system, feeling their confusion, their pain and their hope.

I want to hold on to this warmth. As I write this after climbing half a hill to get range, I feel the cooling warmth of the autumn sun illuminating the valleys of rice fields and misty mountain tops. I want to bottle this light in a crystal decanter and preserve the pulse of those golden rays around me. A reminder that I too am living, breathing and thinking organism.