Dr Upen Patel delivers dental care in India with Birmingham student volunteers

Dental blog
School children after their visit to the Dental Camp

Dr Upen Patel from the University of Birmingham’s College of Medical and Dental Sciences travelled to India earlier this year to provide hundreds of local residents with free dental and oral care.

Accompanied by his wife, who is also a dentist, and his two young children, Dr Patel, was invited by the charity, Satya Samaj UK, to take part in the oral and dental health camp. He was also joined by the following Year Three and Four students from the Birmingham School of Dentistry:

  • Lydia Crisp
  • Jacob Howard
  • Rahul Pathak
  • Satvinder Sangar
  • Kaval Turna
  • Priyanka Haria
  • Jasmeet Heran
  • Aakash Mayor
  • Snehal Sharma
  • Bhawandeep Singh
  • Alisha Ubhoo

Acting as the clinical lead alongside Vinod Lodhia, who led the project, Dr Patel and the students spent four days providing free dental care to approximately 500 people, including almost 200 children.

“It was the first time I’d provided dental charity work in the UK or abroad. I’d always wanted to do something like this since qualifying as a dentist, as I strongly feel that it’s a healthcare professional’s duty to help others, especially those who are underprivileged and are especially deserving,” said Dr Patel.

Days one to three

The first three days of the camp took place at the Swami Shukdevanand Charitable Hospital, which is associated with the Parmarth Niketan ashram and located in the foothills of the Himalayas near the city of Rishikesh. Dr Patel and his team worked alongside a team of local volunteer dentists.

The final day

On the fourth day, the volunteers travelled to Virbhadra, where they set up their dental clinic on the bank of the River Ganges.

“We were very fortunate to be supported by the largest ashram in the Rishikesh region of India, Parmarth Niketan, who provided us with food, accommodation and clean water so that we were comfortable and could help as many people as possible,” said Dr Patel.

“Delivering the camps involved early starts and late nights, but the experience of helping people and the gratitude you saw on their faces made the rolling power cuts and extreme heat literally fade away. I was impressed by the work ethic of all of the volunteers and we were rewarded by being included in all of the ashram’s customs and observances.”

Many of the patients who were treated by Dr Patel and the team of students had never been to a dentist before.

“Some of them were in dire need of oral and dental care,” said Dr Patel.

“All of the adults and children had dental examinations, were screened for oral disease, given oral hygiene and diet advice, tooth-brushing instruction and were offered a tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush to take home.”

Where appropriate, other advice and treatments were provided, including tobacco cessation advice and teeth and root extraction. The volunteers strived to complete most of the treatments during their time at the camp, with the dentists in India continuing to deliver the required on-going care and treatment.  

Team effort and generous contributions

As well as funding their flights and transport, the team of volunteers were required to source the materials they needed to be able to carry out their valuable work. The team received multiple generous donations from local, national and international companies and managed to raise almost £15,000, which they used to help purchase the additional equipment and materials that were required.

“We’d like to sincerely thank everybody who donated,” added Dr Patel.

“Their contributions enabled us to help so many people. The camp was such a success, that plans are being made to establish a long-term arrangement for the Satya Samaj UK Oral and Dental Health Camp to take place again in February next year.

“I’m definitely planning to return to Rishikesh next year and already have a list of students and qualified dentists who are keen to go with me. Hopefully, it’ll be a little cooler than it was this year.”

To find out more about next year’s project:
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