Promoting healthy body and teeth

In a crowded and populated area of Arkhangai province, the Tariat soum Health Center bustles with activity. The dental department, housed in a small room, overflows with people forming a long queue. Doctors and nurses diligently work, assisting patients, providing treatment, and offering various dental services. It was within these walls, amidst the hustle and bustle, that the successful career of B. Purevdulam, a dentist at the Tariat soum Health Center, began.

The summer that prompted career change

Purevdulam’s career path took an unexpected turn during a summer vacation. After graduating in 2010 with a midwifery degree from the nursing department of the University of Health Sciences, she spent two years working in Tariat soum. Deciding to pursue a different path, she enrolled in the medical department of the National University of Medical Sciences.

Even as a first-year student, B. Purevdulam gained valuable experience working as a doctor for the Tsagaannuur team during the summer break. This opportunity coincided with a training program offered by the provincial Health Department and the “Denan” project for doctors. It was during this training that the “Denan” project, implemented by Save the Children, presented B. Purevdulam with a life-changing proposal. They offered to support her transition to dentistry by covering her tuition fees for three years, establishing a fully equipped dental office, and guaranteeing her a job upon graduation. With this support in place, B. Purevdulam switched course in the fall of 2013, embarking on her journey to become a dentist. Since the first-year curriculum was identical across programs, the transition was seamless. This marked the beginning of B. Purevdulam’s path towards dentistry, solidified by a tripartite agreement signed with the Provincial Health Department and Save the Children. The agreement stipulated her commitment to working in Tariat soum for five years after graduating in 2017.

Dentists wanted

Save the Children, funded by the US-based Denan Project, had been running a health project in Tariat soum’s General Hospital, Arkhangai Province, since 2012. Back then, the hospital served not only its own residents but also those from surrounding soums like Tsakhir, Khangai, Chuluut, and Undur-Ulaan – a total of 15,000 to 17,000 people. However, there was a glaring absence – a dentist and a dedicated dental office. This meant residents had to undertake arduous journeys, traveling over 600 kilometers to the provincial capital or even further to Ulaanbaatar for even basic dental care.

Dental treatment often requires multiple appointments with breaks in between. Traveling such long distances repeatedly proved a significant deterrent for many, leading to neglected oral health issues and premature tooth loss.

Recognizing this critical need, the “Denan” project stepped in and constructed a fully equipped dental clinic. By the time B. Purevdulam graduated in 2017 and arrived in Tariat soum, a well-equipped dental office awaited her. The clinic boasted modern equipment – a dental chair, a compressor, an X-ray machine, sterilization cabinet, and a sterile instrument packaging device. Additionally, it was stocked with all the necessary materials to perform procedures like cavity and root canal treatments, dental X-rays, tooth extractions, and other minor oral surgeries. This clinic significantly improved the dental care services available at the Tariat Soum General Hospital.

Setting goals, getting to work

Purevdulam’s arrival as a dentist filled a critical gap in Tariat soum and surrounding areas of Arkhangai Province. Previously, the absence of dental services meant tooth extraction was often the only solution for severe pain. Lack of dental services led to a high prevalence of chronic dental problems among adults. There was also a misconception, initially shared by B. Purevdulam herself, that rural residents enjoyed good oral health.

The reality, however, revealed a significant lack of basic oral hygiene knowledge among both children and adults. Many viewed teeth not as organs requiring care, but simply as things to be pulled out when they become a source of pain. This alarming truth became evident when B. Purevdulam examined over 900 children from schools and kindergartens. A staggering 98% had tooth decay, highlighting the severity of the issue.

In response, a program of regular preventive check-ups was implemented for schoolchildren and kindergarteners. Detailed dental records were established for each child, tracking broken, filled, and extracted teeth. These reports formed the basis for targeted education initiatives aimed at children. Additionally, teachers and parents received training and educational materials on oral health.

These efforts have yielded positive results. Public attitudes have shifted dramatically, with residents now seeking regular check-ups and prioritizing treatment before pain arises. Since 2020, a collaborative effort with the soum governor’s office has seen the launch of the “Healthy Teeth – Healthy Future” event, further promoting dental health awareness among children.

The quest for healthy teeth continues

The dental clinic at Tariat Soum Hospital in Arkhangai Province operates with a dedicated but lean team of doctors and nurses. Due to shared responsibilities across wards, the team efficiently manages their time to serve a high patient volume. On average, a doctor sees over 20 patients daily, with occasional surges requiring additional effort. Providing care for everyone remains a top priority. To streamline operations and reduce wait times, the clinic has implemented a phone appointment system. However, unforeseen complications may extend certain appointments for 1-2 hours.

The success of the Tariat Soum Hospital’s dental clinic has served as a model for neighboring soums like Chuluut, Tuvshruulekh, Ikh Tamir, and Khairkhan. Since the new doctor’s arrival just a few months ago, the clinic has significantly improved oral healthcare access for the surrounding communities.

B. Purevdulam: In the past seven years, alongside nurse T. Tsogzolmaa, I’m proud to say we’ve served over 20,000 patients in duplicate figures. Upon starting in 2017, a preventive oral health check-up among kindergarten and school children revealed a staggering 98% prevalence of tooth decay. However, through our concerted efforts, that number has significantly decreased to 83%. To reduce childhood dental disease, we’ve partnered with the Governor’s Office to organize the “Healthy Teeth-Healthy Future” event. This initiative provides targeted tooth decay prevention treatments for children between 7 and 12 years old. Additionally, each year, a full kindergarten class receives comprehensive dental care. These efforts, along with a growing emphasis on preventive care, have resulted in a noticeable increase in regular check-ups and treatment before problems arise. Thanks to continued funding from the “Denan” project and the hospital budget, our dental office equipment is being upgraded and modernized. One ongoing challenge we face, however, is limited access to in-service training for doctors. The expansion of our hospital currently underway. I plan to further improve my dental practice. This includes expanding my workspace, acquiring additional tools and equipment, and continuously honing my skills to deliver the highest quality care possible.

Purevdulam’s dedication stems from the tangible results she’s witnessed firsthand. Seeing the positive impact of her work fuels her enthusiasm and commitment.

Her success is undeniable. The dental department thrived under her leadership, taking first place in the “Participatory Healthy Teeth Campaign” in 2018 and 2019. Individually, B. Purevdulam’s achievements are equally impressive. In 2019, she placed third in a provincial doctors’ conference with her presentation on “Caries Prevalence among School-aged Children and the Current Situation”. This earned her recognition as the organization’s best doctor that year, followed by the Ministry of Health’s letter of credential in 2020. Her dedication was further acknowledged in 2023 with titles of “Best Doctor of the Province” and “Best Employee of the Soum.” That same year, her four-year research culminated in a first-place win at a theory and practice conference, granting her the opportunity for international travel. In addition to her clinical work, B. Purevdulam completed her Master’s degree in Medicine (2018-2020), focusing on the link between caries and growth in school children.

Purevdulam’s passion extends beyond Tariat soum. She actively promotes children’s dental health across the province, driven by the belief that “Healthy teeth mean a healthy body”. Her story of dedication and positive impact continues to inspire…