Children born with a cleft lip or palate face a number of significant oral heath challenges, including missing teeth, extra teeth or malformed teeth. They also suffer from dental abnormalities such as poor bone support, a smaller-than-normal mouth, and deformations of the roots that hold the teeth in place.

Dental cavities and gum disease are also issues faced by many Operation Smile patients, which is why dental surgeons like Dr Blankson play such an important role in the comprehensive care provided by the charity. He explains:

Dr Blankson is sat down wearing blue surgical gown and hat, and a face mask. He high fives a young patient who is lying in the dentist chair.
Dr Paa-Kwesi Blankson at work in Accra, Ghana. Photo: Margherita Mirabella.

For our patients, dental cavities are very common. There’s a lot of gum disease and different stages of periodontitis. There isn’t enough early intervention, so often cavities can develop into abscesses which causes a lot of discomfort and infections. There are different models of care depending on the severity of each case, but for routine assessments we check the positions of the teeth and check for issues that need interventions such as cavities. Then there are the extreme cases or the ones that we consider need a pre surgical intervention.

Dr Paa-Kwesi Blankson
Two dentists wearing surgical gowns and hats, inspecting the teeth of a young patient.
Dentist Paa-Kwesi Blankson at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Ghana. Photo: Margherita Mirabella.

Operation Smile Ghana is currently partnering with one of the biggest teaching hospitals in Ghana to provide comprehensive cleft care to patients in the region. Dr Blankson tells us more about his involvement in this important partnership at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra:

“When the Covid-19 pandemic came, we couldn’t organise international surgical programmes and provide the care we wanted and that our patients needed. So, we worked to set up this initiative that allows us to treat some patients in the hospital, with some volunteer time and spaces reserved for Operation Smile.”

This programme shows Operation Smile’s commitment to sustainability and local capacity building. Dr Blankson dreams of the day when Ghana will be self-sufficient in all sectors, in particular, healthcare. He says:

“I dream that one day healthcare will be made accessible to as many people as possible, and affordable as well. Not just that, but we, actually, are able to get the highest level of healthcare delivery comparable to other more developed economies.”

Dr Blankson was inspired to volunteer for Operation Smile because of the life-changing impact the charity’s work has on children with cleft conditions, he tells us:

“My favourite bit is interacting with the kids. Yes, the work I do in dentistry and surgery, and working with colleagues from international missions is enlightening, but my personal favourite is me interreacting with the kids and having chats with them.”

Two dentists wearing surgical gowns and hats, inspecting the teeth of a young patient.
Dentist Paa-Kwesi Blankson at work in Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, Ghana. Photo: Margherita Mirabella.

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