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Media Coverage in The Daily Examiner - Dentist Calls it a Day

3 July 2019
The Daily Examiner
Author: Kathryn Lewis

There are few children who would look back fondly on their time in the dentist's chair.

For Wayne Pearson, it was the appointments most dreaded and feared that sparked an interest in a lifelong career.

"I wanted to use my brain and my hands as well. As a child I had pretty poor dental history myself and spent lots of time at the dentist. I had a bit of an interest in it in that respect,” he said.

After years of looking after Grafton's pearly whites, DrPearson has decided to slow down and focus his attention on his farm and cattle.

Dr Pearson's humble career has taken him from the comfort of his Fitzroy St dental surgery to the humidity and difficulty of performing dental work outdoors with a head torch and often only a plastic stool for his patient.

Since 2003, Dr Pearson has made an annual trip to Timor-Leste through the Timor-Leste Dental Program to provide dental care to communities that would otherwise go without.

"There are five degree-qualified dentists in Timor. The population is 1.2million,” he said.

For a two-week stint, DrPearson would join other Australian dentists in the small town of Maubara, 50km along the coast from the capital Dili.

"We would go on outreach. We'd pack everything up in two vehicles usually and we go out to wherever,” he said.

"It's a bit different to what it is here. We have to adapt.”

Dr Pearson recalled a trip to the mountains where hundreds of locals lined up outside the small room off a church they worked in.

"Blanch and I were there at nine o'clock at night,” he said.

"There's no lights so you've only got your head torch. We were still working on people because they are all queued up.

"Basically you've got to keep going. Unless you're coming back the next morning, then you usually make sure you see them.

"There was one man he walked four hours - most of their transport is walking - to see us. He had maybe six or eight teeth out, maybe more, then walked home four hours in the dark. And that is quite common.”

Dr Pearson said unlike most of his patients in Grafton, there was enthusiastic excitement when they arrived.

"They're more frightened of the disease than the cure,” he said.

"One of the first times I went I saw a little girl, she was nine, she had a severely decayed lower molar tooth which would've come through when she was six.

"She would've had an abscess for a good two years. They just live with chronic pain.”

Dr Pearson said another trip to Timor-Leste was on the cards, but only to continue to teach and mentor dentists and dental nurses.

"You've heard the old story 'feed a man fish and he'll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime'. Earlier on in the program that's what was happening,” he said.

"That's a drop in the bucket at what you can achieve if you can train somebody.”

Click here for the online version of The Daily Examiner article

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