Dental Mission in Ukraine – Listening to Those Who Do Not Have a Voice

It is hard to believe that it has been 4 years since the Revolution of Dignity started in Kyiv. From the outset, Canada-Ukraine Foundation (CUF), through the generous donations of the Ukrainian Canadian Community, started to assist the injured from the Maidan with medical supplies and pharmaceuticals. Later, in the fall of 2014, we started restorative surgeries on the victims of the Russian aggression through our Medical Missions. Our fifth Mission was completed in March 2017 – a total of 300 surgical operations have been done on 178 patients. 97 hand therapy procedures were done as well for those who did not require an operating room.

CUF had been concentrating its efforts on wounded adults and not on another vulnerable segment of society – the children in orphanages.

During the fifth Mission, I was introduced to Stepan Terletsky who is an orphan advocate in Ukraine. Stepan is the director of Mercy Trucks Ukraine who have been working for the past 7 years on dental issues of children at orphanages using a dental mobile clinic and a team of volunteer dentists and hygienists.

Why worry about dental issues? What’s the connection between oral health and overall health?

Like many areas of the body, your mouth is teeming with bacteria — most of them harmless. Normally the body’s natural defenses and good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing, can keep these bacteria under control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.

In addition, certain medications — such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers, diuretics and antidepressants — can reduce saliva flow. Saliva washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect you from microbial invasion or overgrowth that might lead to disease.

Studies also suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with periodontitis — a severe form of gum disease — might play a role in some diseases. In addition, certain diseases, such as diabetes, can lower the body’s resistance to infection, making oral health problems more severe.

Every child living in an institution needs a tooth treatment


  • 100% of children have dental caries;
  • Premature loss of milk and permanent teeth;
  • No defect and teeth abnormalities identification.


  • Children in orphanages live in difficult social conditions therefore are more vulnerable to the development of various pathological conditions;
  • The dental hygiene of children in the institutions is not provided and controlled by staff;
  • The state does not provide preventive maintenance and treatment of a teeth to children;
  • Dental services for children in orphanages are not available;
  • Only 4% of necessary foundation for medical service provided by government;
  • Children with “Delayed mental development” need special approach during the treatment process;
  • Children are not provided with preventive examinations, the problem solved by removing the teeth instead of treatment!

How was this possible?

When we look at the budget for orphanages it becomes very clear.

  • 106,000 children are living in orphanages in Ukraine;
  • 1.5 % of Ukraine’s children population live in orphanages;
  • There are 751 orphanages in Ukraine.


$ 240 million US was spent by the government on the orphanages in 2016. This is $2,264.15/year per child or $6.20/day per child. However, 85% of this amount is spent on staffing and building maintenance, the orphans must get by on $ 1/day.

From this $1.00, only $0.01 is allocated for all health treatments. $0.87 goes for food.
In 2016, there was $10,000,000 US of charitable assistance donated for orphanages in addition to the Government support.

Only 7% are true orphans, the rest are economic orphans – their families cannot afford to keep them at home.

So how could CUF not respond to this appeal? We signed on for a pilot program of four sites in Odessa Oblast for 2017.

The summary of these four missions is as follows:

372 children were examined; 384 dental appointments were made;
568 dental fillings; 56 teeth extractions; 54 dental cleaning and 33 canal treatments.
All this was done by 47 professionals and volunteers: 18 dentists; 28 assistants; 1 coordinator

The details by site are as follows:

All dentists and assistants provided their services free of charge;
Expenses were for: dental medical suppliers and materials; gasoline for mobile dental clinic; transportation for doctors and assistants; food for doctors and volunteers, etc.  General budget for 4 missions: $ 8,000 CDN. That works out to $21.50 CDN per child!

It is now clear to us that further work is required, and the costs are extremely reasonable. CUF has started discussions about a 10-site program for 2018 if volunteers are available. This will only mean a cost of $ 20,000 CDN. In addition, because the truck is now 10 years old, we will be preparing a replacement budget item for this as well. The impact on these children is without measure.

Psalm 10: 17-18 …. Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will listen to their cries and comfort them. You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so people can no longer terrify them.

Please donate generously to Canada-Ukraine Foundation – Dental Mobile Clinic

By New Pathway  – Jan 23, 2018

Victor Hetmanczuk for NP-UN, Toronto.