Expanding Mobile Dental Care in Japan

Photo courtesy Dr. Murata
Photo courtesy Dr. Murata

AmeriCares has expanded its dental program with Iwate Dental Association to include 5 more dentists with the goal of improving access to dental care for tsunami and earthquake survivors in Japan.

In the aftermath of the Japan earthquake and tsunami, AmeriCares worked to improve access to dental care for survivors. This year, we’ve expanded our program with Iwate Dental Association to include 5 more dentists.

Many elderly survivors of the disaster lost their dentures in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that occurred in March 2011. Eating sweets and crackers while living in evacuation centers following the disaster also compromised survivor’s oral health. Even after moving back to their homes or resettling in temporary housing, they faced limited access to dental care due to lack of transportation and resettlement in remote areas. Life in these temporary shelters also had a negative impact on the physical health of elder survivors;  some of them lost the physical strength to travel long distances.

On August 23 and September 3, our AmeriCares Japan team and the dental association delivered mobile dental units to five dentists in two cities and one village in the coastal zone of Japan. All five dentists are survivors of the disaster, and four of them lost their clinics.

During the August 23 delivery, mobile units were delivered to three dentists in Kamaishi and one in Miyako. Dr. Kudo, one of the doctors in Kamaishi, told us only the foundation of his clinic remained after the tsunami. Now, he uses a rented space to provide care. As a member of Team Kamaishi, a group providing mental and dental care, and as an individual, Dr. Kudo conducts home visits of survivors. The portable dental units make treatments possible that he could not do before. 

Dr. Miura, another Kamaishi dentist, provides dental care via a bus rented by the dental association after he lost his clinic. He had been conducting home visits with little equipment and under harsh conditions. His new clinic will soon be open, and he is happy to be fully equipped for home visits.

On September 6, the team visited Dr. Murata, the only dentist in Noda village, home to 5,000 residents. His clinic was flooded, but not severely damaged during the disaster; however, many of his patients lost their homes and now live in temporary houses with no means to leave. Now with the mobile devices, Dr. Murata can travel to his patients and treat them on site.

In 2012, AmeriCares worked with the Iwate Dental Association to provide mobile dental units for seven dentists in Iwate’s coastal area. The doctors conducted home visits and served more than 600 elders who have difficulties coming to the clinic, including those in wheel chairs.

Read more about our work in Japan here.