For the past week a dental team from America has been visiting Akha Outreach Foundation doing the annual check-ups and cleanings for all the orphans. While this is quite a large task in itself, they still made time to haul all thier equipment up to a village for a day to pull some teeth. Preventative dental care is a fairly new concept in Akha villages, so although most of the children and young adults brush thier teeth, many of the older adults have never brushed thier teeth and live in constant pain. It is very common for adults to chew betel nut which helps to numb the pain temporarily (and makes for the blackish-red teeth that are so often seen among the Akha), but in the long run it causes much damage to the mouth & gums. You can imagine that Dr. Luce and his two dental assistants had their hands full that day! They saw over 40 patients and pulled over 100 teeth in just 6 hours! Good work, guys! The village they visited was about 20 miles east of the village we live in, so we drove over to help out if we could. We certainly weren't much help in pulling teeth, but we were able to set up a mobile clinic and treat some minor non-dental ailments. The open-air school room we were in felt like a three-ring circus at times, with everyone in the village either straining to watch in sympathetic agony as the dentist pulled teeth, or curiously crowding around to see the two white people "who speak Akha" give out medicine.
Here are a few pictures of the day, courtesy of Joe Rutledge.