Brazilian dentists offer free dental help to victims of abuse
SÃO PAOLO, Brazil: Turma do Bem is the largest specialized volunteer network in the world. The organization believes that oral health is a tool of social inclusion and should, therefore, be accessible to a vulnerable population. One of organization’s projects, called Apolônias do Bem, offers free dental help to women who have experienced severe dental problems as a result of domestic violence.
The project is intended to help women rebuild their confidence in themselves and promote their social inclusion. It may also be instrumental in helping them find new employment.
“Can you imagine what it feels like to look at yourself in the mirror and see your injured face? It’s like reliving the moment of the violence,” said Vinicius Tamamoto, a communications coordinator at Turma do Bem.
The organization was officially established in Brazil in 2002 and now extends to 12 other Latin American countries and to Portugal. There are 1,700 dentists actively working in the network. According to the Australian Dental Association, about 27% of women in Brazil suffer physical or mental abuse every year. To help tackle the issue, volunteer dentists from Apolônias do Bem are providing pro bono dental work to victims of domestic violence who have been subject to dental trauma or neglect.
“The program originated from an awareness of the lack of dental support for women who have been victims of violence. In Brazil, we have an aid network for them that provides psychological, medical and legal support, but no one had thought about their facial injuries,” Tamamoto noted.
The beneficiaries of the project can be selected in two ways. Tamamoto explained: “Women can be selected by specialized social organizations or help centers. They are initially examined to determine how serious their oral problems are. In addition, they have to fill out a socioeconomic questionnaire and an Oral Health Impact Profile (OHIP). These provide information about their social vulnerability level and the expected impact of future oral treatment.”
“Women can also come to us through the courts. After that, our team examines each woman and considers her oral condition, her social vulnerability level and the OHIP results. Women with the most serious oral problems and the highest OHIP levels and those who are currently studying and supporting their family on their own have preference,” Tamamoto concluded.
More information on the project can be found here.