I was on Molokai this week for the first time to work at the Molokai Community Health Center– Dental Clinic. From Oahu it is a short plane ride, and incredibly beautiful, so I wondered why I never went before. To get there I took a flight on Mokulele Airlines. Small 9 seater. It was fast- 20 minutes. No hassles, no long lines. That should have been a clue of more to come.
Molokai Community Health Center- Dental Clinic
The Molokai Community Health Center (MCHC) strives to provide accessible health care for the island of Molokai with respect and aloha. Dental health services are provided by a full time Dental Director, Dental Hygienist, several assistants, and a Dental Receptionist. Dental hygiene and patient education of dental care are among the priorities of the staff. I was fortunate enough to be able to participate and see the good work they do first hand this last week by filling in for the director who was off island. The dental clinic was busy attending to people of all ages, from children to seniors. We were fully booked each day I was there! One concern of mine was the amount of dental disease in the youngest patients. One child at 16 months had the condition referred to as “baby bottle caries”. This term refers to the pattern of decay in baby teeth caused by allowing infants to sleep with their bottle containing milk or juices etc. Sadly, Hawaii has a higher incidence of this decay as compared to children on the mainland.
In the “State of Children’s Dental Health: Making Coverage Matter”, the PEW Center on the States gave Hawaii an “F” for its performance in the area of children’s dental health. Hawaii was the worst overall performer among the fifty states and the District of Columbia. Auwe!
I was proud to be able to provide care. The Molokai Community Health Center- Dental Clinic’s priority of education and adoption of good dental hygiene habits, habits are so important to having good oral health. As a preventative dentist, I also emphasize regular dental cleanings and exams, consistent home care, consisting of tooth brushing, flossing and rinses, and timely intervention for any dental issues.
Kamehameha V Highway (Highway 450)
Molokai is quiet, remote, and beautiful. It is most famous for the Kalaupapa Leper Settlement, and Father Damien who recently achieved sainthood for the work he did for the people of Molokai. There is a mule trip that you can take down to visit the historic Settlement that I did not take this time. Instead, I chose to explore Highway 450 to East Maui.
We planned to head out to Halawa Park at the very end of the road. Before the trip, we were advised to stop at the Saint Joseph’s Church in Kamalo, established by Father Damien, and sign the guestbook. It is the second oldest church in Molokai, and worth a stop. Thus fortified, we were on our way. I was reminded of the ‘road to Hana’ another famous Hawaii road on Maui. Highway 450 was curvy, narrow and scary with speeds of 20 miles per hour or less in some areas, and seemed to take forever. In fact, the trip from Kaunakakai took an hour and a half, but was not very far!
Highway 450 was scenic and definitely worth the trip. Along the way we passed the Pu’u O Hoku Ranch which is a beautiful resort that you can visit and also stay at. Keep on going though, and you will be rewarded with Halawa Bay. This beach park was definitely worth the drive. We couldn’t stay long as it was getting dark. Next time we will start early, and bring a picnic lunch!
Back to Honolulu
I enjoyed my week, but back to Oahu and my Honolulu dental office. I could tell that the need for dental care was great in Molokai and am so grateful for the opportunity. It was such a great feeling to be doing what I love, providing dental care, in such a beautiful place.re almoana