Sowmya says in smaller villagers where parents were easily located, the dentists were able to perform extraction work on local kids, while in larger towns the dentists performed cleans and checks and triaged children to streamline wait lists for the local dentist.
“It was good to work alongside the local dentist, it felt like we did more than make a difference for that small amount of time, it will be ongoing,” she says.
Sowmya’s current workplace in Ipswich also supported the cause by donating much-needed dental instruments for the trip, which were distributed across provinces in Solomon Islands.
“There are only a few local dentists over there and they don’t have a lot of access to instruments or materials, including extraction instruments and items for restorative dentistry and even hand mirrors,” Sowmya said.
“It showed me how much I take things for granted sometimes. We visited a dental clinic in the Solomon Islands and found the dentist didn’t have handheld mirrors. That is an item every dentist uses and needs to use. Now he has them and can use them.”
The benefits of venturing outside your comfort zone
It was as much a personal journey as well as an opportunity for professional growth for Sowmya, who is the first to admit she tends to overthink and err on the side of caution.
“Going to Solomon Islands, the biggest thing I learned was that you only regret something if you don't do it. So never hold yourself back to any opportunities just because you're scared.
“For me, just going there was outside my comfort zone because I'm someone that likes to have more control of my life. Over there, I had to let go of everything. I had no signal, no power, no running water – those comforts we take for granted were not available. I learnt it's fine to not have control, to just be in the moment and enjoy it.”
Sowmya says she was surprised to find herself willingly taking part in a traditional festival whilst abroad – a festival that saw her running around with a stick in the dead of night while locals threw fish guts at her.
“So initially, when I heard it about this festival, I decided there was no way I was participating, but then I thought, I always take calculated risks, but I really need to step outside my comfort zone because this was a great way to integrate with the community.
“Looking back, I can’t believe I did it, but it really made me a little bit freer. I thought the trip was only going to help with my dentistry, but it helped me push the boundaries of my comfort zone as well.”