Staff members from the community dental health service in Liverpool have returned from a two week trip to Tanzania, training African Clinical Officers to extract teeth.

Liverpool Community Health NHS Trust employees Rizwana Haq, a Dental Officer, and Liz Puzzar, a Senior Dental Health Promotion Officer volunteered their services as part of charity Bridge2Aid's Dental Volunteer Programme.

Although 75% of Tanzania's population live in rural areas, 90% of the country's dental personnel live in cities, leaving rural people cut off from dental and general health services and often in a great deal of pain.

Tanzania's Rural Clinical Officers are responsible for the provision of all basic medical services in thousands of small dispensaries and health centres across Tanzania. They regularly deliver babies, give vaccinations and stitch wounds, but when it comes to giving emergency dentistry, they have very few skills.

Bridge2Aid relies on volunteers such as Rizwana and Liz to give up their time to train almost 50 Officers every year.

Rizwana, who works in Vauxhall Health Centre, Everton Ward Health Centre, and in the Emergency Dental Service, said: "I first spotted the opportunity to go to Tanzania a couple of years ago when I went to a British Dental Association Conference. I was interested then, but when I took home the application form there were two things stopping me from applying - questions about my motivation for going, and my weaknesses. I just didn't know how to answer.

"Last year I returned to another BDA Conference and started talking to someone from the Bridge2Aid stand. When I told them why I hadn't got round to applying, they couldn't believe it, and really inspired me to apply."

When Rizwana told her colleagues about her forthcoming adventure, Liz was particularly excited. So when another volunteer dropped out, she stepped in to take their place.

Liz said: "Going to Tanzania was a fabulous experience, the country was so beautiful and the people so friendly. We helped train 12 Community Officers while we were there and saw over 800 people. It felt great to be offering some real practical help which will make people's lives more comfortable.

"At the moment we are very lucky in Liverpool - we have access to emergency dental services 365 days of the year. Those who live in rural Tanzania are currently dependent on travelling dental services for help. By offering our support and working with Rural Clinical Officers in Tanzania, it means that they can get help on a much more regular basis."

Rizwana added: "We both want to go back in the near future and are hoping to do some fund raising activities over the summer to help fund another trip to Tanzania."

Liverpool Community Health