Derry dentists share smiles with Chernobyl children

Quayside dentist Mary Mooney examining young Anna from Chernobyl.  (1907JB02)
Quayside dentist Mary Mooney examining young Anna from Chernobyl. (1907JB02)

Going to the dentist doesn’t tend to rate at the top of anyone’s list of favourite things, but at least we’re blessed here with dentists who know how to make any experience in the dentist’s chair as painless as possible.

Things are very different in Belarus, where any dental work, even on young children, is carried out without the use of anaesthetic.

For the children of Chernobyl, there is no such thing as a six monthly check up, preventative dentistry or treatment with the aid of mouth numbing anaesthetic.

So when local dentist Mary Mooney of Quayside Dental Care heard that a group of children from Chernobyl were coming to Derry and Inishowen, brought across by the local branch of the Chernobyl Children’s Project, she decided to enlist the help of her colleagues throughout the city to provide the children with free - and painless - dental work.

“When I heard that the children received poor dental care, with any treatment being carried out without anaesthetic, I wanted to see what we could do,” Mary said.

She set about enlisting the help of dental practices throughout the city who agreed to each see three or four of the 25 children who had been brought over by the local charity.

Each child has been offered two appointments to allow the dentists to carry out an initial examination and carry out any treatment required before the children return to Belarus.

“What we have found is that generally the children have very good teeth,” Mary said: “This could be down to the difference in diet in Belarus - the lack of sweet stuff. But generally we have been very impressed.

“The children have tended not to be too nervous. For many of them this is their first visit to a dentist. Those who have been a little more nervous are those who have been before and who maybe have had a bad experience.”

Patsy McLaughlin of the Chernobyl Children’s Project said she has been overwhelmed by the generosity of the local dental practices. “Mary has been amazing - as have all the dental practices who have pulled together to see the children. It has taken a lot of co-ordination and we are eternally grateful.

“It breaks my heart to think of children being given dental treatments such as extractions or fillings without anaesthetic. We have had to reassure some of the children that things are not done like that there - that there are magic creams to make things easier.”

Among those seeing the dentist for the first time was 13-year-old Anna, who has been staying with Patsy and her husband Joe for the last three summers.

Anna, who speaks English very well, admits she was nervous about her treatment but that Patsy had assured her it would be okay.

“We want to thank all the businesses who have helped to make the children’s stay a memorable one. People have once again been very generous and we can’t thank them enough.”