A pair of Vanuatu dentists saved a patient from possible permanent disfigurement last week in a delicate surgical procedure, the first ever performed in Vanuatu.

Dr Nelson Tanghwa and Dr Mackenzie Sitobata, who are both dentists, conducted the successful surgery at Vila Central Hospital.

The procedure is known as a ‘reduction of the zygomatic complex fracture’. The zygomatic process is a part of the skull that connects the cheekbone to the mouth area. This new process required that the dentists work from inside the patient’s mouth to raise the broken section of bone, and then wire it into place using a precise knot.

Without the surgery, the patient would face near-certain stigmatisation as a result of the deformity caused by the depressed bone right beside their nose.

“We did a one-point fixation at the zygoma-frontal fracture site… after reducing the fracture and elevating the zygomatic bone fracture [through the mouth],” said Dr Tanghwa.

“The two-hour procedure was a first of its kind to be done at the main hospital here in Port Vila and there were no post-operative complications,” he added.

In the past, such fractures were either left to heal on their own, or the bone was raised but not fixed into place, potentially creating a less certain result for the patient.

The pair of dentists are both alumni of Fiji National University.