Fighting for oral health in Kenya

Dentaid volunteers have helped thousands of rural Kenyans out of poor oral health with treatment and preventive education by volunteers from Dentaid. Trustee Sally Reading describes the charity’s mission.

In Kenya, the dentist to population ratio is 1:40,000, while the World Health Organization recommends a ratio of 1:7,500.

The average monthly income in rural Kenya is around £75.

The average cost of an extraction is £5.

Much of the dental equipment available in rural areas is ageing and difficult to service, because of a lack of both skilled engineers and spare parts. This situation means there is a huge need for dental volunteering and support.

I first started working in the country when I was a dental nurse. Having regularly fundraised for Dentaid since 2001, they invited me to travel to Kenya to help deliver a dental chair and ART kit for one of its projects. It was a dream of mine, so I jumped at the chance.

I am now the Kenyan team leader for Dentaid, which involves providing emergency and routine dental treatment, as well as delivering vital equipment and materials.

Educating on prevention

Since my first trip in 2010, I’ve been to Kenya on six occasions for two weeks at a time – most recently at the end of June this year.

On each trip, the number in my team has increased. This year was the biggest one yet, with 10 people on the team.

Most of our missions are primarily focused on extractions and getting people out of dental pain.

But in my time in Kenya I have seen many patients with either rampant caries or severe periodontal disease.

Therefore, we are now also turning our focus towards more preventive treatments and long-term oral health education.

The donation this year of a portable Cavitron Select ultrasonic scaler from Dentsply Sirona was extremely timely.

It has made a significant difference by completely transforming the amount of work the team has been able to do.

Many patients come to us with bleeding gums or in desperate need of basic teeth cleaning.

However, because we’ve been limited in the past to hand scalers, we haven’t been able to help as many sufferers as we would have liked. Now, things are really changing.

In 2018, we only managed to carry out four scaling treatments, due to time limitations and equipment. This year, with a larger team and the use of the Cavitron, we were able to complete 322.

It has opened up the opportunity to help so many more sufferers of gum disease who otherwise would simply go without treatment.

We are also more preventive in the limited time we have.

Using trusted equipment

Dentsply Sirona donated the Cavitron to the team and I was absolutely delighted because it was ideal for our needs.

I know how to use it after receiving training previously on this equipment.

I was familiar with all the benefits it brings, especially the Cavitron Select. Being portable, it makes life much easier, especially when I am working in the outreach clinics in rural Kenya.

I prefer to use the Cavitron for most of my work. The range of different inserts gives great versatility and it is extremely efficient. It is a contrast to using hand scalers, which can make treatment very time-consuming, especially when working on tenacious deposits.

My patients find treatment with the Cavitron more comfortable, too. I have had feedback from some patients that the water is too cold, or the vibrations are uncomfortable with other scalers I have used.

Conversely, the Cavitron has power and water flow controls, which I can set according to the patient’s needs and they don’t experience as much sensitivity.

This encourages patients to return for treatment, which in turn helps with our preventive message.

Expanding the mission

My dream is to expand our work even further and increase visits to twice a year, and in more areas. With this in mind, I am now doing more fundraising, including a 12,000ft skydive with my daughter. One day I’d like to build a dental clinic in Kenya, which would be sustainable for several dentists to work from.

That dream is getting closer with a lot of hard work, support from Dentsply Sirona and donations such as the Cavitron, which is now staying out in Kenya to treat thousands more patients all year round.

To find out more about the Dentsply Sirona range of preventive solutions, visit or call 01932 838 338.

For more information on Cavitron ultrasonic scaling units, visit For more information about Dentaid, visit

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