A Dental Trip Through Africa — Nigel Mallon — 5th January 2015

Nigel MallonAlthough the title of the talk was ‚” A Dental trip through Africa.” the talk was really about the career of Nigel Mallon and his accept­ance that although the tasks ahead are often bigger than the avail­able resources, one can always win through by care­ful plan­ning. As an example of this he sited an occa­sion in the Falklands war when a British com­mander had led his troops to a super­ior pos­i­tion look­ing down over Goose Green, which was being defen­ded by a con­tin­gent of Argentinian con­scripts. The Argentinians were well armed and out­numbered the British troops who only had about 25 rounds of ammuni­tion between them. The com­mander thought about the situ­ation for a while and then decided to talk to the Argentinians under a flag of truce. He told the Argentinians they could fight if they liked and troops would die on both sides but the out­come was inev­it­able, the British would win because of their super­ior pos­i­tion. The Argentinians laid down their arms.

His first job was check­ing but­tons in a mental hos­pital laun­dry which bored him and  after only a few weeks he left. He decided to qual­ify as a dent­ist: joined the forces and was sent over­seas to Borneo. His com­mand­ing officer believed it better to get the good will of the people and so with just for­ceps and anes­thetic Nigel was instruc­ted to take teeth out in the com­munity. In 1991 he served in the Gulf war in the navy and relieved many sol­diers suf­fer­ing from toothache whilst having to do shifts of 6 hours on and 6 hours off.

He came back to Sheffield and bought a dental prac­tice in Broomhill, which he con­ver­ted to an NHS dental prac­tice. In 2000 he had 150 patients, but he offered free dental checks to the eld­erly and now he has 11 sur­ger­ies and 1500 patients. In 2004 he took a sab­bat­ical and went to a Lutheran Church in Arizona for 3 months. He then went to Ecuador per­form­ing extrac­tions. Over 40% of the pop­u­la­tion there are under 18.

He then went to Rwanda per­form­ing extrac­tions on the many polit­ical pris­on­ers held in jail since the gen­o­cide of 1994. Following that  he went to Burundi, the state next door, where there were only 8 dent­ists for 8 mil­lion people. He took with him 12 other dent­ists and between them they saw 10,000 patients. One of the prob­lems in Burundi is the pres­ence of the Coca Cola fact­ory which sells Coca Cola cheaper than water: hence the people drink Coca Cola in pref­er­ence to water, which has a dis­astrous effect on their teeth.

Nigel real­ized that what they were doing was not making a big impres­sion on the prob­lem, and so he and the team that go  with him train, the local aid work­ers to do extrac­tions and at the end of the train­ing period they give them a cer­ti­fic­ate and leave them with the dental imple­ments which they take out with them. This is much more bene­fi­cial approach to the prob­lem because whilst the newly trained tech­ni­cians do not do as many extrac­tions per day as Nigel and his team do, who are there for a month or two, they are there doing their work every­day, all year.

Now, Nigel and his team go out to Africa each year for about a month doing extrac­tions and train­ing people to carry on their work in their absence.

The talk was well illus­trated with pho­to­graphs of the people and their dental prob­lems.