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Schoolchildren take field trip to visit PACANGEL dentists

Phon Pagna, a dental administrator for East Meets West non-governmental organization examines a young Cambodian girl from Angchhum Trapeang Chhouk School in Kampot Province, Cambodia, June 15, 2016, as part of a dental hygiene outreach event during Pacific Angel 16-2. Approximately 187 children from the school attended the event and received oral hygiene education and fluoride treatments. The oral hygiene education day was planned by East Meets West NGO in partnership with the Kampot Provincial Health Clinic, but executed by both U.S., Australian and Cambodian dentists and volunteers, further building on the relationships formed throughout the Pacific Angel 16-2 mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Susan Harrington/Released)

Phon Pagna, a dental administrator for East Meets West non-governmental organization examines a young Cambodian girl from Angchhum Trapeang Chhouk School in Kampot Province, Cambodia, June 15, 2016, as part of a dental hygiene outreach event during Pacific Angel 16-2. Approximately 187 children from the school attended the event and received oral hygiene education and fluoride treatments. The oral hygiene education day was planned by East Meets West NGO in partnership with the Kampot Provincial Health Clinic, but executed by both U.S., Australian and Cambodian dentists and volunteers, further building on the relationships formed throughout the Pacific Angel 16-2 mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Susan Harrington/Released)

U.S. Navy Lieutenant Matthew Kanter examines a young Cambodian boy during a dental hygiene outreach event for Angchhum Trapeang Chhouk School in Kampot Province, Cambodia, June 15, 2016. Approximately 187 children from the school received oral hygiene education and fluoride treatments along with a toothbrush and toothpaste to take home as part of Pacific Angel 16-2. Pacific Angel includes general health, dental, optometry, pediatrics, physical therapy and engineering programs as well as various humanitarian aid and disaster relief subject matter expert exchanges. The mission enhances participating nations’ humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities while providing needed services to people throughout the region. Kanter is a U.S. Navy dentist deployed from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Susan Harrington/Released)

U.S. Navy Lieutenant Matthew Kanter examines a young Cambodian boy during a dental hygiene outreach event for Angchhum Trapeang Chhouk School in Kampot Province, Cambodia, June 15, 2016. Approximately 187 children from the school received oral hygiene education and fluoride treatments along with a toothbrush and toothpaste to take home as part of Pacific Angel 16-2. Pacific Angel includes general health, dental, optometry, pediatrics, physical therapy and engineering programs as well as various humanitarian aid and disaster relief subject matter expert exchanges. The mission enhances participating nations’ humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities while providing needed services to people throughout the region. Kanter is a U.S. Navy dentist deployed from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Susan Harrington/Released)

A young Cambodian boy smiles after he receives his toothbrush and toothpaste from Pacific Angel 16-2 Cambodia dentists and dental technicians June 15, 2016.  Dental providers from East Meets West, a non-governmental organization based in Vietnam, partnered with U.S., Cambodian, Australian, Vietnamese and Thai military counterparts as part of Pacific Angel 16-2, a multilateral humanitarian assistance/civil military mission, to provide the multitude of children basic dental examinations and, more importantly, educate them on the importance of proper dental hygiene. Each child was given a toothbrush and toothpaste and was educated on how to properly brush their teeth at home. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Susan Harrington/Released)

A young Cambodian boy smiles after he receives his toothbrush and toothpaste from Pacific Angel 16-2 Cambodia dentists and dental technicians June 15, 2016. Dental providers from East Meets West, a non-governmental organization based in Vietnam, partnered with U.S., Cambodian, Australian, Vietnamese and Thai military counterparts as part of Pacific Angel 16-2, a multilateral humanitarian assistance/civil military mission, to provide the multitude of children basic dental examinations and, more importantly, educate them on the importance of proper dental hygiene. Each child was given a toothbrush and toothpaste and was educated on how to properly brush their teeth at home. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Susan Harrington/Released)

Children from the Angchhum Trapeang Chhouk School in Kampot Province, Cambodia listen intently as they learn about oral hygiene as part of a health services outreach event June 15, 2016, for Pacific Angel 16-2 in Cambodia. The children were taught how and when to properly brush their teeth, then were provided a general dental examination and fluoride treatment. Oral hygiene is particularly important for children because if primary teeth get cavities, it could later cause infection or problems with their adult teeth. The school outreach event was planned and executed by non-governmental agencies in coordination with U.S., Cambodian, Australian, Vietnamese and Thai counterparts in order to educate the population on preventative health throughout the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Susan Harrington/Released)

Children from the Angchhum Trapeang Chhouk School in Kampot Province, Cambodia listen intently as they learn about oral hygiene as part of a health services outreach event June 15, 2016, for Pacific Angel 16-2 in Cambodia. The children were taught how and when to properly brush their teeth, then were provided a general dental examination and fluoride treatment. Oral hygiene is particularly important for children because if primary teeth get cavities, it could later cause infection or problems with their adult teeth. The school outreach event was planned and executed by non-governmental agencies in coordination with U.S., Cambodian, Australian, Vietnamese and Thai counterparts in order to educate the population on preventative health throughout the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Susan Harrington/Released)

Minh Huong, the lead for the East Meets West - Dental non-governmental organization based in Vietnam, stands in front of the crowd of approximately 187 children explaining how to brush their teeth properly using a large set of fake teeth and an oversized toothbrush June 15, 2016, in Kampot Province, Cambodia. Approximately 187 children from Angchhum Trapeang Chhouk School in Kampot Province, Cambodia, took a morning field trip to Pacific Angel 16-2’s health services outreach location in order to receive oral hygiene education and fluoride treatments. Pacific Angel is designed to promote interoperability with partner nations, while providing needed services to people throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The mission being conducted in Kampot Province includes general health, dental, optometry, pediatrics, physical therapy and engineering programs as well as various subject-matter expert exchanges. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Susan Harrington/Released)

Minh Huong, the lead for the East Meets West - Dental non-governmental organization based in Vietnam, stands in front of the crowd of approximately 187 children explaining how to brush their teeth properly using a large set of fake teeth and an oversized toothbrush June 15, 2016, in Kampot Province, Cambodia. Approximately 187 children from Angchhum Trapeang Chhouk School in Kampot Province, Cambodia, took a morning field trip to Pacific Angel 16-2’s health services outreach location in order to receive oral hygiene education and fluoride treatments. Pacific Angel is designed to promote interoperability with partner nations, while providing needed services to people throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The mission being conducted in Kampot Province includes general health, dental, optometry, pediatrics, physical therapy and engineering programs as well as various subject-matter expert exchanges. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Susan Harrington/Released)

Minh Huong, the lead for the East Meets West - Dental non-governmental organization based in Vietnam, speaks to a group of children on the importance of dental hygiene while Mam Sochenda, a translator for Pacific Angel 16-2 translates her words, June 15, 2016, in Kampot Province, Cambodia. Dental providers from East Meets West, a non-governmental organization based in Vietnam, partnered with U.S., Cambodian, Australian, Vietnamese and Thai military counterparts as part of Pacific Angel 16-2, a multilateral humanitarian assistance/civil military mission, to provide the multitude of children basic dental examinations and, more importantly, educate them on the importance of proper dental hygiene. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Susan Harrington/Released)

Minh Huong, the lead for the East Meets West - Dental non-governmental organization based in Vietnam, speaks to a group of children on the importance of dental hygiene while Mam Sochenda, a translator for Pacific Angel 16-2 translates her words, June 15, 2016, in Kampot Province, Cambodia. Dental providers from East Meets West, a non-governmental organization based in Vietnam, partnered with U.S., Cambodian, Australian, Vietnamese and Thai military counterparts as part of Pacific Angel 16-2, a multilateral humanitarian assistance/civil military mission, to provide the multitude of children basic dental examinations and, more importantly, educate them on the importance of proper dental hygiene. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Susan Harrington/Released)

KAMPOT PROVINCE, Cambodia --

Dental providers from East Meets West, a non-governmental organization based in Vietnam, partnered with U.S., Cambodian, Australian, Vietnamese and Thai military counterparts as part of Pacific Angel 16-2, a multilateral humanitarian assistance/civil military mission, to provide the multitude of children basic dental examinations and, more importantly, educate them on the importance of proper dental hygiene.

“In Cambodia, there are so many people, not only children but also adults that still think that going to the dentist only involves extraction [of teeth],” said Minh Huong, the lead for the East Meets West - Dental NGO. “They don't think about how to prevent dental disease or dental decay, so it’s very important that we help educate the children.”

Minh stood in front of the crowd of nearly 200 children and explained how to brush their teeth properly using a large set of fake teeth and an oversized toothbrush. She also gave them pointers on when and how often they should brush.

“We teach them very simple lessons, three times a day, or at least two times a day they should brush their teeth, and especially before bedtime,” Minh said. “They can use a little toothpaste or even without toothpaste. They enjoyed it a lot.”

The children repeated and recited Minh’s direction over and over so they could remember the instructions. After which, each child received a toothbrush and toothpaste, then went to see one of the dentists or dental assistants, such as U.S. Navy Lieutenant Matthew Kanter, a dentist deployed from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, who were ready to provide them a quick exam and fluoride treatment.

“We give the kids good looks, and provided basic treatment,” Kanter said. “With the resources we have available I think we did a great job bringing them in, showing them a good time, and hopefully have a positive impact.”

According to the local Cambodian dentists, a large portion of the rural populations in the country do not have the education or exposure to oral hygiene, so for some, this was likely the first time the children had been exposed to the importance of brushing their teeth.

“I hope that having at least been exposed to someone telling them it’s important might get them to start thinking about it,” Kanter said. “That's something that they never have had before and we were at least able to provide that service to 187 kids today.”

Starting early is key for dental health throughout an individual’s life Kanter said.

“It’s extremely important for kids to have good dental hygiene, even with primary teeth, if they get cavities it could cause infection or problems with their adult teeth too; so with any good habit, the earlier you start, the better you are,” Kanter said.

Minh emphasized that the children they brought in from the school are just beginning to replace their primary teeth with permanent teeth, making the oral hygiene education all that more important.

“The permanent teeth will be with them for life, so it will not help them if they don’t have the opportunity to take care of primary teeth, because of lack of knowledge, lack in care, or no oral hygiene education at school,” Minh said. “Now they have the knowledge to help them protect their teeth. It’s a great opportunity to help the people, adults and children in Kampot.”

The oral hygiene education day was planned by East Meets West NGO in partnership with the Kampot Provincial Health Clinic, but executed by both U.S., Australian and Cambodian dentists and volunteers, further building on the relationships formed throughout the Pacific Angel 16-2 mission.

“This is a great partnership between the U.S. Pacific Angel mission and also East Meets West - Dental,” Minh said.  “The way we do dental care for the children and the people here, we combine the efforts.”

Pacific Angel is designed to promote interoperability with partner nations, while providing needed services to people throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The mission being conducted in Kampot Province includes general health, dental, optometry, pediatrics, physical therapy and engineering programs as well as various subject-matter expert exchanges.