Our regular readers will recognize Dr. Sadesh Kumar. Wickham Dental is often making news–whether implementing the latest technology, or additions to his staff. In this case however, Dr. Kumar wanted to talk about a recent mission trip to India. In the spirit of “giving back,” we found his timing to be perfect.

“I participate in many of the local events and charities, but wanted to do something more. Something to give back to my country, to help children who would otherwise likely not receive help,” Dr. Kumar began. “It is a great thing to see someone leave my office with a nice new smile, but I was aware of children who would never have that benefit in their lives. Children with cleft lip or palate face a life of hardship and suffering. A friend told me of an opportunity in a remote area in Central India. He did all the legwork in to get us there, and helped plan not just the logistics of the trip, but the selection of the ten families we were to help.

“I could only be gone from my practice here in Melbourne for about a week, so everything had to be scheduled perfectly. The ten families were brought from villages and tribal communities about 500 kilometers north of the state capitol of Bhubaneswar. Here they were fed and made comfortable, to help them gain trust in us prior to the procedure.”


According to WebMD, cleft lip and cleft palate are “facial and oral malformations that occur very early in pregnancy, while the baby is developing inside the mother. A cleft lip is a physical split or separation of the two sides of the upper lip and appears as a narrow opening or gap in the skin of the upper lip. A cleft palate is a split or opening in the roof of the mouth. Cleft lip and cleft palate can occur on one or both sides of the mouth. Because the lip and the palate develop separately, it is possible to have a cleft lip without a cleft palate, a cleft palate without a cleft lip, or both together.”


The families of these children purposely shy away from urban centers where treatment might be more readily available. The condition certainly impacts the child’s quality of life, but the entire family feels the effects as well. For a family from such a remote area to make the trek to even the small village where Dr. Kumar sets up would be practically impossible. Therefore, with the advance work of locals, the families are identified and Dr. Kumar’s friends in India travel rough roads to these outlying areas, meet the families, and explain the relatively quick procedure. Once Dr. Kumar arrives, the families have already been picked up and brought to the village for their child’s corrective surgery.

The families are brought in early to acclimate and gain acceptance of the strangers there to help them. They are fed and treated well. Each surgery takes about a half-hour, and the impact is nearly immediate. Breathing improves, sleeping improves, even eating and sometimes nursing are dramatically improved. The children adapt to their improved function very quickly, as evidenced by the smiles in the photos Dr. Kumar provided. All ten children were treated in a single day, and after a short period of observation, were taken back to their homes.