Rural Dental Care in Action
The origins of the ADCERRA (Auroville Dental Centre Education Research Rural Action) project were inspired lack of infrastructure.
First, there was a dire need for dental care among the rural population of India.The second motivation was that we wanted to put into action the revolutionary approach of “Concept 0 (zero)” into Health Care, and in particular into dental care. It offered the possibility of a much broader outreach with more affordable means in a larger setting.
India has a population of 1.4 billion people [World Population Review, 2019]. Within this growing number lays more than 60% living in rural, developing areas [Trading Economics, 2017]. The 270,000 registered dentists live mostly in big cities, leaving the rest of the country in a dentistry desert.
“As a result, the vast majority suffers from tooth decay and gum diseases. It is estimated that only half of the population use a toothbrush, primarily due to lack of awareness. The majority of the rural population lives in over half a million villages, and with poor infrastructures and lack of access to transportation, few have access to oral health services.”
[Demographics of Dentistry in India, Indian Journal of Dental Sciences, June 2011, Issue:2, Vol.:3]
ADCERRA’s rural programme was designed to address the absence of dentists in these rural communities, focusing on education, prevention and basic care while prioritizing children and educating them for long term impact!
Our objectives were simple: increase access to basic dental care with emphasis on preventive treatment using locally trained dental health workers. In addition, we provide information and awareness about oral health with a systematic educational programme!
The ADCERRA project is organised around 1 dental clinic linked to 7 dental sub-centres, providing the required infrastructure for our rural dental health care programme.
1 Dental Clinic
The clinic is staffed by a dental surgeon, a dental assistant and an infrastructure maintenance technician.
It offers more conservative care of high standards for the patients who come from rural areas around Auroville. Currently it caters for about 30 villages with a total population of 25,000 people. In addition, its resident dentist treats the cases that are referred by the Dental Health Workers from the 7 sub-centres.
The 7 dental sub-centres (2019) are located in the surrounding villages, primarily set up to address the needs of children.
These sub-centres target villages and schools in the villages. The prime objective of these sub- centres is to promote awareness on oral health and nutrition at the grass root level, as well as to provide preventive care to reduce the need for expensive treatment on the long term.
Parents as well as school teachers are included in the programme. Initially the sub-centres were located in the villages with the greatest need for dental care. Subsequently, these where relocated so as to match the population density and therefore maximise the outreach. The centres are located in villages where there is a Health Worker originating from the community, to facilitate the communication and build a stronger trust factor.
Each sub-centre is staffed with 2 Dental Health Workers (one of them playing alternatively the role of operator and then assistant). These workers are women from the villages trained specifically for primary dental care. The distribution of manpower is based on population density, with on average 1 Dental Health Worker per 1,000 people. At present, we are covering the 30 schools surrounding Auroville, with 5,700 children who come into our focus. Twice a year, systematic campaigns are carried out in each school with an education session, check-ups, preventive procedures and basic treatments.