TAIPEI (The China Post) — Less than 30 percent of patients who require special care, such as those with severe physical disabilities or the elderly, ask for dental consultation, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
Against this backdrop, the Taiwan Dental Association (TDA) and E. Sun Bank, along with the support of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, have jointly launched the “In-Home Dental Services” to help those who are seriously ill or have limited mobility regain their smiles.
The project head, Dr. Ruan Yi-Hsien, who received the 21st Medical Dedication Award in 2011, started his dental services in Taiwan from 1993 and began volunteering abroad in Cambodia for free clinics in 2010.
The experiences at the Cambodian free clinics in the past few years inspired Dr. Ruan to bring the same services to remote areas like Lanyu Island.
He worked with Dr. Yang Yi-Hsien to organize the Lanyu Dental Service team and launched the project in December 2019. E. Sun Bank first donated portable dental instrument boxes, physiological monitors, and oxygen medical cylinders to the Taiwan Dental Association to address equipment shortages in rural regions.
TDA then held a briefing session, provided training, and recruited additional manpower to service counties and cities like Kinmen Island, Taitung, Yunlin, and Nantou that did not have similar prior dental services.
As of now, 103 dentists have been deployed nationwide through the In-Home Dental Services and a total of 868 patients received improved oral care in 2020, which is an increase of 18% over the same period last year.
In recognition of the lack of medical resources in remote villages on the outlying islands, Taiwan Dental Association and E. SUN Bank volunteers sent a dental-care team to Lanyu Island in mid-June to provide free clinics and home treatments.
Like the In-Home Dental Services, they hope that the residents there can have better oral medical care and establish good oral hygiene practices by reducing the barriers of access.
Nearly 90 % of Lanyu’s population is indigenous, and most of them strictly abide by traditional culture. Once they are old and sick, they can only live alone. In these cases, home care resources are even more important.
Dr. Jian Zhicheng, the June dental team leader, said: “This time at the Lanyu free clinic, I found that a female elder Tao (also known as the Yami people, Lanyu’s indigenous group) could only eat liquid food due to severe tooth decay. After the dentist’s diagnosis and her treatment, she became able to chew on her own.”
The team’s successes did not come without hurdles, however. Home dental care requires flexibility to adapt to local conditions, especially when dealing with the lack of light in a narrow oral space.
Most of the time, dentists had to squat or bend over to treat a patient, while a volunteer assisted in handing over dental instruments and holding a lamp. Yet another volunteer was also present to comfort the patient by soothing tensions and anxieties.
E. SUN representatives shared, “The high temperature and humid environment overloaded, but did not overwhelm the dentists and volunteers. All the patients had relieved and contented smiles after their treatments were completed. Those smiles rejuvenated our dental teams! They all left full of motivation to return.”
Mr. Huang Nanzhou, chairman of the E. Sun Bank, said that he has plans for long-term cooperation with the Taiwan Dental Association to support the In-Home Dental Services project, including setting up dental treatment chairs at rural elementary schools and providing more free clinics for outlying islands.
Proper oral care to maintain healthy lives is and will continue to be the core value of In-Home Dental Services. E. Sun Bank will also continue to take care of the health of the rural and vulnerable people and merge more cross-border forces to create a better society.
Special thanks to:
Dr. 阮議賢Ruan Yi-Hsieh, chairman of the Penghu Dental Association
Dr. 楊奕先Yang Yi-Hsieh, standing supervisor of Chang-hai Dental Association, and
Ms. 倪小萍Ni Hsiao-Pin, secretary general of Taiwan Women Dentists Association (TWDA)