WARRNAMBOOL dentist Peter Kao helped bring smiles to some of Papua New Guinea’s poorest.
Dr Kao has returned from his 18-day trip to the Western Province, where he helped provide dental care which most Australians would take for granted.
Dr Kao said out of a population of six million people, there were only 30 registered dentists.
He said most people didn’t have a toothbrush and coconut husks were used to brush their teeth.
“I’d seen plenty of photos and read stories before I went but it was still a little bit disheartening that they are not able to get best health care,” Dr Kao said.
One of the biggest dental problems in PNG was root infection. Without any other option, people with a toothache often had the tooth snapped off to take away the pain.
Dr Kao has been in Warrnambool for four-and-a-half years and works at Dr Anthony Davies’ clinic and South West Healthcare.
He made the journey to PNG aboard a Youth With A Mission (YWAM) medical ship, which left from Townsville.
The vessel was fully equipped with an onboard clinic. YWAM works with local health care providers to provide training and medical care to remote areas.
During his time there Dr Kao said he met one dentist who had been practising for 30 years and his tools consisted of some forceps.
He helped teach PNG dentists how to remove roots.
“You can do a lot more if you give a bit,” he said.
Dr Kao said he encouraged other dentists in the south-west to donate tools or their time.
“Being a dentist, it’s a great opportunity to do something and it’s a great experience,” he said.
“It was a real eye-opener. We’re so comfortable in Australia. I think everyone could benefit from that experience.”