Brushing up-Tsawwassen dental hygienist Jill Moore applauds success of a young Chinese patient learning to brush her teeth during her recent trip to the northern city of Harbin. Thanks to the generosity of South Delta school children, Moore was able to distribute the 2,500 toot brushes they collected for her overseas visit. Story by Philip Raphael and photo published in the South Delta Leader, Nov. 3, 2007.

Local dental hygienist gets surprise on return visit to China

Seeing the smiles on faces was gratifying. But knowing she made a significant difference in the life of a young child was the capper for Jill Moore.

Fresh from her second trip to China on a medical aid mission at the beginning of September with the Alliance For Smiles program, the Tsawwassen resident and dental hygienist was fortunate to see for herself the results of an earlier visit to assist doctors repair cleft palates in young children from impoverished parts of China.

Supported by Tsawwassen Rotary, the recent visit took Moore and a group of dentists, nurses, doctors and other hygienists to the northern city of Harbin, China's tenth-largest city with 9.5 million inhabitants which lies halfway between the Siberian and North Korean borders.

At the Number Four People's Republic Hospital, Moore helped with the task of selecting and treating youngsters for the disfiguring condition which creates the appearance that the face is split from the top lip into the nose.

In addition to the surgical procedures the crew performed, plenty of tooth brushes-which included the 2,500 Moore took with her as donations from local elementary and high school students-were handed out to the children, some of whom had never seen one before.

"To see their faces was incredible when you showed them how to use one," Moore says.

But amid all the heart ache of seeing many cases that either could not be attended to during the two-week stay because of limited time, or those that were simply not treatable, Moore came across a familiar face with a big smile.

It was a young boy who Moore had helped treat on a previous visit to the city of Shenyang.

Doctors had repaired his cleft palate and his family had endured a long journey from their rural home for follow up treatment.

"I have no idea how they knew we were coming back," Moore says, adding she was surprised and thrilled to see the youngster's current condition-which without care can carry a severe social stigma-had greatly improved.

"His family obviously made a great sacrifice to bring him because they had to stay in the city which can be very expensive," Moore says.

The life of someone with a cleft palate in China can leave them mired in laborious jobs on farms and almost certainly excludes them from attaining an education, she adds.

And with an estimated 25,000 children born with the condition each year in China, that is a lot of youngsters who can get left behind.

Moore said it was hard to turn away some of the 280 families that showed up at the hospital as the most critical cases were taken first.

"But if we could make the difference in one child's life it was well worth it," she says.

To donate medical and dental supplies to an upcoming Alliance For Smiles trip, visit the Tsawwassen Rotary Club's web site at