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News / August 15, 2011

Derry dentists put a smile on Chernobyl kids

by Guy Hiscott

This summer, seven dental practices in and around Derry welcomed a group of children from Chernobyl for pain-free dental treatment in a friendly environment.

Spearheaded by dentist Mary Mooney of Quayside Dental Practice, the idea first occurred to her while treating a pre-existing patient, Pat McLaughlin of the Chernobyl Children’s Project, who spoke about a group of children who were shortly due to fly into Northern Ireland from Belarus for rest and recuperation.

Mary says: ‘Pat commented how unfortunate it was that in Chernobyl many dental procedures are undertaken without anaesthetic.

‘I thought that sounded horrific so I met with Quayside’s owner, suggesting it would be great to treat the children while they were in Northern Ireland, under anaesthesia where appropriate.’

With the owner, Peter Hughes, happy to forge ahead with the scheme, Mary decided it would be best to get another six practices involved, to treat three or four children each.

Practice manager Pamela got to work organising this, and soon Deirdre Ball of One Dental, Kevin Cassidy of Kevin Cassidy Dental Surgery, Robert Miller of Dental Health Matters, Peter Smith of The Family Dental Practice, and dentists from Bishop Street Dental Practice and Oasis Dental Practice were signed up.

At Quayside, Mary and fellow dentist, Kerrie Stewart, treated nine children between them.

Chernobyl children at Quayside

Dentist Kerrie and dental nurse Laura with one of their Belarusian patients

Each child was seen for an initial appointment, which involved a check-up, routine care and prevention, including brushing technique and showing the children aids they had not seen before such as floss and interdental brushes.

At a second scheduled appointment, a couple of the children just needed fissure sealants but the others needed care that included extractions and fillings.

Mary comments: ‘Like anywhere, whether it be Derry or Chernobyl, you get a range of situations presenting themselves. The situation of these children was pretty similar to those we see here. We find it depends a lot on diet.

‘Happily, the children with pretty healthy mouths were not too nervous. However, those who had undergone treatment at home were very anxious, and the language barrier did not help when trying to calm their fears, even though there was a translator in the room.’

Looking to the future, Mary hopes that they can offer more help, Every year the Chernobyl Children’s Project organises for between 30 and 40 children to visit Derry, and Quayside Dental Practice has asked to be kept informed.

‘We have told Pat to let us know next time it is going to happen so that we can look at what we can do to help,’ says Mary. ‘We recognise that trust builds over time, so if the same children come over, we will try for continuity of care.’

To find out more about the Chernobyl Children’s Project, please visit