Dental Hospitainer

Canadian Program

Mercy Ships Canada Project Overview

The project aims to provide equipment, specifically a dental hospitainer for the Africa Mercy hospital ship. While operational, the dental hospitainer will be used by Mercy Ships in multiple countries as the volunteers and the hospital ship conduct their field service activities.

Project Need

The delivery of the Mercy Ships’ dental program was impacted by the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, where dental activities were suspended due to health and safety concerns. The pause in previous activities allowed the Mercy Ships’ International Programs team to make some strategic decisions that would impact the future of the charity’s dental program. Mercy Ships’ new strategy is to focus on education, training and advocacy efforts, direct surgical services, and the work within the hospital ecosystem on board the ships.

The renewed Mercy Ships’ dental program will focus on prevention training, fillings, root canal treatment and cleanings, and extractions. The new dental model will replicate a standard dental office environment, use an online dental computer program for charting, and have digital X-ray equipment at each chair.

The former dental program structure was off-ship and functioned independently from the ship. The new approach brings the dental program into the ship/hospital ecosystem to fully align with the direct medical services vision. The new dental program will have two dental chairs, one in the hospital (crew dental clinic) and one on the dock in a dental hospitainer. 

The 20-foot dental hospitainer will be moved from the Africa Mercy to alongside the dock when the hospital ship is conducting a field service.


Anticipated Project Impacts

Hospital Patients

Two thousand five hundred patients are admitted for surgery to the ship each field service. Most patients are among the poorest in their communities and do not have access to dental care. In addition to the problems hospital patients are screened for, many people also have dental inflammation and pain. When the patients are in or around the ship, the dental team can help the most critical patient cases without interfering with their surgical schedule.

Caregivers of Hospital Patients

Family members are essential to the social fabric and safety net in the countries where Mercy Ships works in Africa’s low-resource settings. Most patients, including all children, accompany a caregiver on board the hospital ship. The patient’s caregivers also need dental care and preventative training. Previously, due to capacity limitations, Mercy Ships could not offer dental services to caregivers and was not able to help them. With the new dental chair in the hospitainer, part of the caregiver group can now be offered dental treatments.

Day Crew

Most of the approximately 250 African day crew members who support the work of the hospital ship while conducting field service have never visited a dentist, and many have dental problems. The dental team offers them dental care and prevention for a clean and healthy oral start during their time on the ship. The day crew members, in turn, can also share knowledge and teach their families and members of their communities the dental lessons they have learned.

Article: The Dental Unit for Global Mercy

Dental tools

Dental Hospitainer


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