Ukrainian soldiers receive professional dental care on front lines


Ukraine, War in Donbas

Translated by: Christine Chraibi


Toothaches cause unbearable pain, problems and inconvenience. They can turn the bravest and most trained soldier into an incompetent dishrag.

A team of volunteer dentists has tackled the problem of oral hygiene by organizing dental services in a mobile dental unit that travels along the demarcation line.

Dentists from all over Ukraine volunteer for one or two weeks in mobile and permanent dental offices, providing professional assistance to Ukrainian soldiers.

One of them is a dentist from Cherkasy, ​​Valeriy Horbenko, who’s been working for more than a week at Ukrainian positions near Shyrokyne.


– The first mobile dental unit, called Tryzub-1, arrived at the front on June 1, 2015, says Valeriy Horbenko. Since then, volunteer dentists have been arriving regularly in weekly rotations to treat our soldiers. We realized that the problem was global after the first rotation. We were approached by commanders and field doctors who told us about the dental situation in the army. We saw that military dentists couldn’t cope with all the work on their own. Therefore, we decided to organize a volunteer organization and regular rotations. We launched mobile and stationary dental offices. We’re currently in a mobile dental office called Tryzub-2. This used to be a bread delivery van that we equipped completely by ourselves. All the equipment was financed by foreign colleagues and civilian dentists, who regularly work along the front lines.


There’s not a moment of rest for Valeriy. He has a very large family, so must go right back to civilian work after the rotation. In addition, he and his colleagues need to regularly replenish the mobile unit with medicines and materials.

During his work on the front lines, Valeriy has often lived through shelling, gunfire and military actions.

– Last year, we were treating a soldier’s teeth when the enemy started shelling Shyrokyne. Our patient had travelled from a very distant remote position, and it took him some time to find us. Therefore, we decided to continue the treatment despite the explosions. I was doing a very complicated job, “playing around” with root canals, using optics and lights… Suddenly, there was a deafening explosion nearby that shook our vehicle, and I broke the instrument in my patient’s canal. Several guys ran up, checked that we were all safe and sound, and told us to take shelter. I smiled and told them: “Look here, I haven’t finished my job yet. You’ll have to wait…” I continued working under heavy fire. At the end of that day, I was really mad at those “separs”! It’s a real pity; I lost a very good instrument…”


The dental volunteers have more than their fair share of work treating 15-20 servicemen a day. They work from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sometimes, they are faced with very difficult cases, for example, when they tell their patients that they must have several teeth removed. Sometimes five to six teeth have to be removed at a time.

Valeriy says that the dental team also tries to change the situation for the better, constantly promoting oral hygiene among the fighters. They conduct training sessions, explain how to properly take care of teeth and why it’s so important, and distribute hygiene products.

– I keep telling the boys what they should do. Guys, brush your teeth! If there’s a problem, visit our mobile dental clinic. We’re here for you!


Mobile Press Group, Mariupol Operational Tactical Group

Translated by: Christine Chraibi
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