Hiroshima University sends dentists to Cambodia

by Miho Kuwajima, Staff Writer

The School of Dentistry at Hiroshima University will start a dental support program in Cambodia. Participants from the school will play a central role in a medical support delegation to be dispatched to Cambodia by a Hiroshima-based NPO from September 19 to 23. They will provide dental checkups for elementary school children and also seek the possibility of receiving exchange students from a university there.

The long-term goal of the School of Dentistry is to become a focal point of dental education in Asia by providing continuing support as part of the international contribution made from the A-bombed city.

The dental delegation will be composed of five doctors including Takashi Takata, dean of the School of Dentistry, several other professors and interns from the same school, and eleven students at the Schools of Dentistry and Oral Health Science.

They will conduct dental checkups for elementary school children in Siem Reap Province. The students will teach the children how to brush their teeth and convey the importance of brushing through a picture-story show. The delegation will also visit the University of Health Science in the capital city of Phnom Penh to suggest a program to host exchange students in Hiroshima starting next fiscal year.

Dr. Takata, who visited Cambodia this past February for a preliminary survey, stated, “A system for dental checkups has not been adequately developed there and most of the children have cavities. We would like to provide a long-lasting support program as a university located in Hiroshima, which, like Cambodia, suffered a tragic war experience.”

The medical support delegation will be sent by Peace Contribution NGOs Hiroshima, a non-profit organization that has been providing support to Cambodia since 2005. The delegation will total 45 people, including internists from Hiroshima University Hospital and students at the Hiroshima University of Economics. This is the first time that one of its medical support delegations will offer dental checkups there.

Partly because dentists were among the victims of the genocide perpetrated by the Pol Pot regime, there are only 209 dentists in Cambodia according to the 2009 World Health Statistics issued by the World Health Organization. This means that there is less than one dentist for every 10,000 people, a ratio smaller than Japan, Thailand and Malaysia, where the number of dentists per a population of 10,000 is, respectively, seven, two and one.

(Originally published on September 5, 2009)