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'Work the World' dental elective in Kandy, Sri Lanka

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'Work the World' dental elective in Kandy, Sri Lanka


As a fourth year dental student at Newcastle University Renna Mahsoub was  given the opportunity to do a dental elective placement in  her summer break before entering final year. Work the World have always had a good reputation at Newcastle and  she had heard fantastic stories from the year above. She writes about her dental voluntary experience.

I wanted to do my dental elective on my own so I could experience some independence but I also wanted some help with the organisation for security purposes and Work the World was the perfect solution. Nili, one of the Sri Lankan Work the World team, met me off the plane and we spent the night in Negombo before travelling to Kandy in the morning. The hospital placement started the next day and I was taken to the hospital to meet the supervisors in the dentistry corridor.

There were three separate dental clinics – orthodontics, oral surgery and outpatients – I started in outpatients. Several qualified dentists worked here at any one time and the aim in the morning was to see as many patients as possible on a first come, first see basis. Most patients were presenting with dental pain of some description. I was allowed to start seeing patients on my first day and by the end of the week was seeing around 20 patients during the full morning slot. The clinic is completely different to what we are used to at home and some concepts took some time to get used to. However, the whole experience was incredibly rewarding and was a real eye-opener. Many of the dentists were very interested in comparing my knowledge and techniques with theirs and learning about all the new technologies that we have now such as light-cure composite! In the afternoons, there were appointments for more complex treatments such as endodontics and some crown and bridge work, although this is very rare.

For the last week of my dental elective, I shadowed the oral and maxillofacial surgeons. I learnt a huge amount during my week here and saw some conditions and treatments you would rarely see in the UK. The main difference between the Sri Lankan dental conditions and the UK ones was down to chewing betel. Betel is a leaf mixed with tobacco and other products and is chewed like gum for most of the day. It gives the patients very characteristic tooth staining, can lead to caries and most dangerously oral cancer. The oral cancer rates in Sri Lanka are very high and most clinicians believe that betel is the main reason for this. Since cancer awareness is low, patients often present very late and their disease will be advanced which is very different to what you would usually see in the UK. We also spent time on the OMF theatre ward where I saw some huge cancer resections and cleft lip and palate repair on a 3-month-old baby.

I had two free weekends in Sri Lanka and I spent both of them travelling around the country. We visited Nuwara Eliya on the first weekend to see 'World's End' and also had a tour around a traditional Sri Lankan tea plantation. On the second, we went to Yala National Park and went on safari for the day – an amazing experience! Overall, as a fourth year dental student my dental elective in Sri Lanka could not have been any better, I met some wonderful people, saw some amazing sites and learnt a lot about dentistry and myself.

Work the World is the UK's leading provider of dentistry electives for UK and international students in Africa, Asia and South America. We tailor placements to match clinical interests, provide 24/7 support as well as provide full board and accommodation. Find out more about the placements on offer on our website, or speak to someone in person on 01273 573 863.


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