A view of the Children's Village in Baku, Azerbaijan
This story is about Aysel, the dentist responsible for all the pearly-white smiles in the SOS Children's Village Baku. For three years now, five days a week, she has been busy treating and advising her little patients on the importance of dental care:
Aysel's office is located in two small rooms in the back of the SOS Kindergarten. She works alone, without an assistant, though she says she often gets some form of assistance. "Many children, especially girls, like to observe my work and help me," says Aysel. "a few have learned to mix fillings and know all the instruments."
Dental services in Azerbaijan have to be paid for and are quite expensive. Depending on the location and the type products used, the cost of one filling ranges from 20 to 100 Euros. "Dental care is not affordable in our country," explains Aysel. "In addition, the oral hygiene is an issue which needs improvement."
"The material is not easy to obtain and is very expensive," says Aysel. "Anaesthetics, for example, are very pricy. Thankfully, in the village we are able to provide quality materials which guarantee painless procedures and longer lifetime for the performed correction."
In the village, the children receive initial control upon admission and have regular check-ups afterwards. "In the beginning, almost all children are scared," smiles Aysel. "I guess fear of the dentist is universal. But, after a while they realize that only the sound of the drills is unpleasant and come themselves."
"I treat all teeth and gum related problems except orthodontic cases. I perform teeth-cleaning, fillings, pulling baby teeth and also give lectures to families on oral hygiene." Aysel has taught every SOS family in the village on the importance of regular brushing and flossing.
She writes a regular column in the village newspaper on dental care. "Health starts from the mouth, I always repeat that," she says. "I try to make my patients aware that many health problems can be prevented with regular and proper oral hygiene."
"With the family strengthening beneficiaries I have noticed progressing dental decay and gum disease due to improper nutrition and poor oral hygiene. This is a result of their financial situation. I recommend which type of toothpaste, brushes and other products to include in their hygiene packages and give tips on healthy diet."
Until last year, the children who need braces were referred to orthodontists, but as of this year Aysel accompanies them. "In this way I get the recommendation from the orthodontist directly and can monitor and adjust the braces myself. It is also good because children are a bit careless when it comes to wearing their braces regularly, so I can push them a bit harder," she smiles.
Twelve-year-old Eltin is Aysel's regular patient. He comes in once a month for check-ups and follows every advice Aysel gives him. "I used to be very scared of the dentist," admits Eltin. "But Aysel is very nice and it never hurts when she fixes my teeth. I brush my teeth three times a day, though I sometimes forget to floss," says the boy with a smile which reveals healthy and shiny white teeth.