Canadian Armed Forces Master Cpl. Michelle Parnell, a dental technician, checks the teeth of a student from the Veiuto Primary School during a community health engagement for Pacific Partnership 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Valerie Eppler)

SUVA, Fiji - Service members from the United States, Australia, and Canada, as well as civilian doctors and dental students, from the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) set up a temporary dental clinic in the music room of Veiuto Primary School to provide dental education and prevention for the school children as part of Pacific Partnership 2015.

The children received education about oral health and how to care for their teeth. The clinic provided a number of dental procedures such as teeth cleaning, sealants, fluoride treatments and extractions.

“We want to educate the children at a young age, before damage to their teeth can happen,” said Navy Lt. Jenna Redgate, a general dentist originally from San Diego. “We are educating them on the importance of teeth, brushing and flossing.”

In addition to the service members who arrived in Fiji aboard Mercy, dental personnel from Japan and Fiji joined the team to assist in the effort.

“There are four dental therapists and one dental hygienist who came to the school today,” said Neelam Sundar, a Fijian instructor dental therapist from the School Dental Unit in Suva.

She said she was amazed at the amount of equipment and personnel that was brought for the temporary clinic.

“This is a learning opportunity for me,” said Sundar. “There are a lot of things that are done differently, different equipment, different procedures than are usually performed here.”

The primary school was selected as one of the temporary sites so the team could reach a large number of children, said Redgate. By setting up the temporary clinic, they were able to reach a larger volume of patients than if they had solely used the dental clinic on Mercy.

The event was successful on a number of levels, said Redgate. The partnering nations, despite occasional language barriers, were able to work together to provide patients with the dental care they required.

“This event really opened the eyes of many of the students,” said Rafaele Madra, the head teacher of the Veiuto Primary School. “The children are very excited to have [the team] here. It is a new experience for them and they love the visitors.”

The clinic provided dental services to more than 100 students, which included performing more than 15 tooth extractions.

Pacific Partnership missions to date have provided medical care to approximately 270,000 patients and veterinary services to more than 38,000 animals. In addition to Fiji, PP15 is scheduled to visit Papua New Guinea, Philippians and Vietnam.

Suva, Fiji is the first mission stop of Pacific Partnership 2015 for Mercy. During the visit, a variety of community health engagements, engineering projects and community outreach projects are scheduled.

Pacific Partnership missions to date have provided medical care to approximately 270,000 patients and veterinary services to more than 38,000 animals. In addition to Fiji, PP15 is scheduled to visit Papua New Guinea, Philippines and Vietnam.