For some, a trip to the dentist is a terrifying, dreaded experience. The sound of the equipment can be jarring and there is nothing worse than having to get a tooth out.

For many children in the Syrian refugee camps in Jordan, Egypt, going to the dentist isn’t an option. And even then, many of the children in the camps have been through so much that volunteering to have a dental check up would be the last thing on their mind.

That’s what makes it all the most special that Haroon Ismail from award-winning Shawlands Dental Care, known for its expertise in making patients comfortable in the dental chair, stocked up on equipment and embarked on a pilgrimage to give vital dental aid with Unicef in the Syrian refugee camps in November 2018.

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“We saw over 500 kids in one week”, said Haroon. “We filled up two suitcases with instruments and equipment, and flew over to help.

“Half the week was spent in setting up our stuff in the camps, and the other half of the week was spent in a local clinic. Whilst it was absolutely amazing to provide that help in the camp, it was equally amazing to do so in the clinic because the locals needed similar care that they weren’t getting - that they couldn’t get from their local surgery.”

As mentioned, Shawlands Dental Care is a previous winner of the Practise of the Year Award at the Global Health and Pharmaceutical Awards. Before their trip to Jordan, the team went to Palestine, and are planning this year to return to Jordan again this November.

“The main issues we faced were the lack of sanitisation, but also the lack of sanitisation for instruments” said Haroon.

Another tricky situation that the dentists faced was navigating between the different cultures which in turn affected the way they could treat the patients - a testament to the skill of the doctors.

Arfan Ahmed also works in Shawlands Dental Care, and travelled to Jordan with Haroon, coming face-to-face with this experience as one of his patients had an epileptic fit whilst in his chair.

“The girl was epileptic, but her parents didn’t tell us that she took seizures because they were scared that we would think she was cursed or possessed, and that we wouldn’t treat her” said Arfan.

“She took a seizure amid treatment. Luckily, we are trained to act in those circumstances and it was dealt with as it should have been.

“It can be to navigate between the two cultures sometimes, but everyone was so welcoming and grateful. You can be up against tradition or even stigma. And you can’t argue with that but you can educate.

“The girl was fine and we tried to educate her mother to let her know that it’s not a bad thing, but it’s very important to disclose everything about a person’s medical history before their treatment or it can be potentially dangerous.”

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Haroon and Arfan are looking forward to returning to the camps again this year, but they both agree that returning home to their clinic after their trip makes them see the trip in a new light.

“It feels very rewarding to return to the south side” said Haroon.

“We don’t realise how lucky we are to have a good clinic, clean equipment, enough medicine, a place to properly sanitise things...

“It is so important to give back to those who can’t afford it. Whenever we were speaking to the locals on our trip, everyone was over the moon that we were there and you just can’t beat that feeling.

“I would invite anyone who was interested in coming along to join us. You don’t need to be a dentist, you can do what you can - we even managed to persuade one of the nurses. Every person can help.”