Tanzania is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It's located in East Africa, and people travel from around the world to take in its breathtaking views of the Serengeti plains, snowcapped Mount Kilimanjaro, and majestic creatures such as elephants, lions, zebras, and rhinos. The indigenous people are known for their colorful clothes, traditional arts, and friendly demeanor toward visitors.
Many people consider a trip to this diverse, scenic country to be a bucket list experience, but living in Tanzania has its challenges. Relying almost entirely on its agricultural resources, the country is economically deprived.1 Residents in rural parts of the country have limited access to education (beyond the elementary level), adequate nutrition, and quality health care. These inequities have resulted in Tanzania’s startling prevalence of child and maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS transmission, and other communicable diseases when compared to other countries.
It’s no secret that the most beautiful parts of the world are often the most socioeconomically disadvantaged. As a vacationing American, experiencing the sweet taste of paradise is usually paired with the bitter reality of poor living conditions for its residents. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, 83% of the world’s population lives in developing countries where access to clean water, electricity, food, and health services is not a guaranteed part of daily life.2 As you can imagine, the concept of oral health care may be viewed as an extreme luxury when basic necessities like food and water are scarce.
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The mission of IMR
International Medical Relief (IMR) has been working hard to serve the needs of the global community for more than 20 years. With a mission to provide services and resources to improve the health and wellness of the most vulnerable populations, this nonprofit organization offers medical and dental services, sustainable community health education, training and partnership initiatives, and disaster relief.3
Based on its founding principles of integrity, stewardship, quality, respect, and passion, IMR is actively working to improve living conditions for millions of people. Many of its goals—such as improving health and well-being, clean water and sanitation, and organizational collaboration—align with the sustainable development goals set forth by the United Nations and help support the overall mission of global unity.
While problem-focused care is one aspect of IMR’s global dental relief program, its primary vision is to strengthen worldwide disease prevention through oral-systemic education. Maintaining oral health doesn’t end with the teeth and gums, because individuals are taught about the relationship between sustainable oral hygiene and optimal overall health.
To support this philosophy, IMR operates dental missions simultaneously with its medical missions. Dental teams typically consist of dentists, dental assistants, dental hygienists, and dental and dental hygiene students. Patients can count on comprehensive, compassionate care from these qualified volunteers, and they’re very appreciative of the services they receive.
From Peru to Cambodia, IMR offers dental and medical relief to more than 80 countries across Central and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. These mission trips are offered about 150 times per year and can last anywhere from four to 14 days. Trips are usually scheduled one year in advance to allow volunteers time to plan their time and finances.
Once people have arrived at the destination, IMR provides all transportation, lodging, meals, permits, and clinical schedules. The organization also secures essential equipment and supplies for dental services. Dental hygienists are empowered to provide services such as intra- and extraoral exams, prophylaxis cleanings, periodontal therapy, topical fluoride treatments, and oral hygiene instruction. Many of the patients have never been seen by a dental professional before, so creating positive experiences is very important.
The world is home to billions of people from all walks of life. Many of them do not experience the luxury of good health and clean, safe conditions during their lifetimes. IMR recognizes this and wants to be the change, but it needs caring clinicians to help fulfill its vision for worldwide health. A single dental mission trip can create a ripple effect in a community that will positively impact the residents’ health for generations to come. A life-changing experience awaits. Are you ready?
- Bryceson DF, Chiteji FM, Mascarenhas AC, Ingham K. Tanzania. Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed April 7, 2023. https://www.britannica.com/place/Tanzania
- Now 8 billion and counting: Where the world’s population has grown most and why that matters. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Updated November 15, 2022. Accessed April 10, 2023. https://unctad.org/data-visualization/now-8-billion-and-counting-where-worlds-population-has-grown-most-and-why
- About us. International Medical Relief. Accessed April 11, 2023. https://internationalmedicalrelief.org/about-us/