University of Texas dental school volunteers provide emergency oral care to Hurricane Harvey evacuees
September 08, 2017
Relief efforts: University of Texas Health School of Dentistry faculty, staff, students and residents pose for a photo at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. The volunteers provided dental care services to nearly 100 patients who were among the evacuees of Hurricane Harvey.
— Volunteers from the University of Texas Health School of Dentistry joined the Hurricane Harvey relief effort by treating nearly 100 patients who were among those who sought shelter with the Red Cross at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
For five days after Hurricane Harvey caused massive flooding in the last week of August, UTHealth staff, faculty, staff and residents provided dental care services to shelter evacuees brought to an urgent care clinic established in the convention center.
“Most of the patients needed extraction of non-restorable teeth due to caries or pain, occasionally with swelling and infection as well,” Dr. Kamal Busaidy, a professor at the University of Texas School of Dentistry, Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, in a news release.
Dr. Busaidy and several dental students and faculty went to the convention center individually to volunteer early in the week and saw that the federal Disaster Medial Assistance Team established a triage and emergency treatment area without dental services.
The volunteers immediately established a dental triage area and brought the school’s mobile dental van to the convention center. In addition, volunteers at the dental school stuffed toothbrushes and toothpaste into more than 5,000 gift bags and were handed out to evacuees.
“The DMAT supervisor told me it was the first time they’ve ever been to a shelter where dental services were provided, and they were very impressed that we were there to help with those needs,” said UTSD Community Outreach Director Margo Melchor in a news release.
Dr. Busaidy remembers meeting a man who lost all of his possessions in the flood, including medications. The man also had an abscess caused by infected teeth.
“So we drained the infection, removed several offending teeth and gave him analgesics and comforting words before sending him to the medical team for replacement medications,” said Dr. Busaidy.
“He was very appreciative and commented on how unexpected it was that so many people were taking such good care of him,” Dr. Busaidy said. “He was typical of a the patients we saw.”
According to a news release, the number of evacuees at the convention center has dropped dramatically, with fewer than 2,000 still sheltering there on Sept. 6. The dental van is no longer on site, however, the Red Cross arranges transportation to the dental school’s Urgent Care Clinic for any evacuees who have oral pain.