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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Dubai labourers get free dental check-up through new Sheikh Hamdan programme

A total of 2,000 men, many of whom have not been to a dentist for years, will benefit from the Sheikh Hamdan programme.
Dentists at the Dubai Dental Clinic check workers for warning signs in ulcers and abscesses that could develop into mouth cancer. Satish Kumar / The National
Dentists at the Dubai Dental Clinic check workers for warning signs in ulcers and abscesses that could develop into mouth cancer. Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI // The first workers from labour camps have been checked for signs of mouth cancer and tooth decay in a new programme offering free treatment to 2,000 men this year.

Some were examined by a professional dentist for the first time in their lives, at the screening launch at the Hamdan bin Mohammed Dental College, in Dubai Healthcare City.

Dentists at the Dubai Dental Clinic checked for warning signs in ulcers and abscesses that could develop into mouth cancer.

The Hamdan bin Mohammed Oral Hygiene Initiative for blue collar workers is also serving an educational purpose, and the dentists stressed the importance of check-ups every six months.

With many workers unable to pay for dental care, the programme is funded by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, in collaboration with the Permanent Committee for Labour’s Affairs.

Each check-up would cost Dh150, with follow-up treatment also paid for.

Dr Iyad Hussein, a specialist in paediatric dentistry from Dundee, Scotland, has been at the college since July and said his team was focused on health issues, rather than cosmetics.

“We are assuming the majority of these people do not have access to dentistry now or in the past,” he said.

“Any broken-down teeth will be removed. There is a limit to what we will do, and won’t be offering a Hollywood smile for all, just issues affecting good dental function.

“Screening for mouth cancer is something we will be focusing on. Checks need to be made every six months. These men are not getting that at the moment.”

Signs of tooth decay or other problems can be present for a long time, and then flare up suddenly.

A simple cavity can take a year to develop and become very painful, dentists said. Mouth cancer is like an ulcer on the tongue or mouth that never heals.

Last year, more than 1,400 patients from government and private bodies benefited from similar outreach programmes, including school pupils, labourers and children with special needs.

Workers from the Al Habtoor Leighton Group were some of the first to be checked this year, including Rajan Byakrel, 42, from Kathmandu, Nepal, who works at a labour camp in Al Quoz 1.

“I try to clean my teeth once a day but I have not seen a dentist for at least two years,” he said.

“It is very expensive, so this is a big help. I have been checked and I have a small cavity, that is it. It will be fixed now.”

Dr Amal Al Mahmoud, a Dubai dentist who is taking part in the programme, said the oral health of the men she had seen on day one was better than expected.

“So far in the men I have seen, their oral hygiene has not been that bad,” she said. “It was a surprise as I thought they would have lots of problems. We have been taking X-rays and have seen about 50 men today. This will continue once a week for a year.”

Field trips will also be made by dentists into labour camps to continue the treatment plans for workers.

Volunteers are assisting with translation to help medical staff communicate better with the workers.

Mohammad Asad, 20, from Pakistan, who works in the Sonapur labour camp, said: “This is the first time I have been to see a dentist in my life,

“I try to look after my teeth but mouth cancer was not something I had thought about until this check-up.”

The Dubai Dental Clinic has six dental specialities – periodontics, prosthodontics, endodontics, orthodontics, paediatric dentistry and oral surgery.

Dr Wafa Al Rahma, a dentist at the clinic for seven years, said: “The workers will first have a screening to assess what treatment they need.

“According to the treatment plan they will be looked after at the centre.

“It is very important to have a regular check-up.

“If problems are ignored, they can develop into serious health problems.”

nwebster@thenational.ae