Dentistry for everyone

Name: Dr Maria Pestana

Area of specialisation: General Dentist  

Family: Married for 27 years and has twins.

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Loads of people might be scared of visiting the dentist, but if you don’t have access to one, it’s a whole different ballgame. Dr Maria Pestana recently spent six nights at Tshemba Foundation to aid children with just that problem.

As an avid volunteer, joining the Tshemba Foundation was inevitable for Dr Pestana. “I feel very blessed to be able to help people. So, when I saw the article, I knew Tshemba might offer a very different experience; to both be able to help people in rural areas and enjoy a little bit of the bush. It’s a balance between the beauty of nature and the reality of life,” she said.

“The juxtaposition between the lodge and the medical situation was vivid; the lodge is breathtakingly beautiful while the conditions at Tintswalo Hospital are challenging. That being said, the staff was amazing; they are young and enthusiastic,” she continued.

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Because of the limitations at Tintswalo Hospital, it’s difficult to see patients and provide the services they need. Often patients can’t be seen to and are left waiting. However, at a nearby clinic, there is beautiful and unused dental equipment and two operating rooms, but no personnel trained to do restorative treatment, only extractions.

While there Dr Pestana, her son Andrea Giuricich (who is a second-year dentistry student at UP) and nurse Rosy Ribane, spent time at nearby crèches screening children between the ages of three and five. They saw about 460 children and approximately 80% of them desperately need restorative dental work. “These children have no hope of having any kind of surgical dentistry done on their teeth because there is no system for that anywhere nearby,” she commented. 

These issues prompted Dr Pestana and her fellow dental volunteers into action. They are looking to set up a dental facility or mobile clinic manned by volunteers. Christine du Preez, Hlokomela Women’s Clinic founder, has offered a room in her clinic for dental work. The dental project will require equipment, material and qualified dentists who can provide the restorative dental work so sorely needed in the area.

Dr Pestana has donated an amalgam mixing machine and is speaking to some of her colleagues about more donations. But this is not where she stopped. She contacted Colgate and asked for their assistance, and together with equipment donated from The Dental Warehouse, the Tshemba Foundation will have two fully-equipped mobile dental units from 28 May to 10 June. The aim is to screen about 2 500 children and as many adults as possible during this time.

Dental services are almost non-existent, making this opportunity a vital intervention. Resources regarding personnel and equipment are dire; thus, to make this visit successful, Tshemba is calling on volunteer dentists to assist screening children in the mornings at schools and adults in the afternoons at various clinics.

Upon stating what stood out the most for her, Dr Pestana said: “I will always remember the elephants and being stuck in an elephant-traffic jam; but most of all, the children at the crèche and their beautiful songs of thanks and anti-poaching.”

When you join the Tshemba Foundation, you will both enrich your own life and those of others. Should you like to volunteer, especially between 28 May and 10 June 2018, or want to find out more about the Tshemba Foundation, call +27 (64) 507 5527 or visit www.tshembafoundation.org