While we were contemplating on our decision to start working for our social initiative for under privileged, we decided to have another shot at our plans and decided to take a survey. For 3 months me and my team asked everyone we met which included our regular patients, relatives, friends and neighbours only one question.
What are the chances of them hiring any house help, driver, office boys, nannies,cleaners or washers who are toothless, have bad smelling breaths or gutka /pan stained teeth?
And the unanimous answer gave us a green signal to our project Karma.
Why is dental health so important? What difference would it make in a poor person’s life if it is made affordable? Some would argue that instead one should contribute towards more serious problems like maternal health, cancer, AIDS and other life threatening diseases.
Teeth in our heads seems very natural and mostly taken for granted but the location of these small teeth in our body is a Critical. Yes,Critical!! Because if not taken proper care than the infection spreads to the nerves inside the teeth, to the bone around the teeth and here pus accumulates and a dental abscess is formed. But this can happen to any other body part as well than why it’s dangerous around teeth? Because it’s not good to have all this infection so close to your brain and chest, that is why it’s critical !
An untreated dental abscess can invade the tissues of the head and chest. It can infect and clot the veins of the neck, and spread between the skull’s many sinuses. If it reaches the brain, it can result in a brain abscess or meningitis. This is now a rare event, but it wasn’t always. In the seventeenth century, “‘teeth’ were continually listed as the fifth or sixth leading cause of death.”
Mary Otto’s heartrending and incisive book, Teeth, writes about a twelve-year-old who “died of a toothache” in 2007. His life could have been saved, if his family had money and an adequate access to dentists. “By the time his aching tooth got any attention,” “the bacteria from the abscess had spread to his brain.” Surgeries and no doubt much suffering followed, but it was too late.
This death and many other like that especially in a developing country like India where majority of population falls under low income group is direct result of a system of privatized dental care.
With a limited number of government dental institutions in our country the dental care is mostly a “carefully guarded largely private system,” one that is “enormously difficult to reach for those without money.”
The state of our teeth, reveals—and reinforces—deep inequalities in society. Though the betterment of healthcare system and an increase in the number of dental professional is totally a matter of government planning but I doubt anything like dental health care would be given any immediate priority in developingsetup where basic education and daily meals is a major issue.
The victims are exactly who you would expect: the poor.
And while economic inequality—whether through poor diet or lack of access to dental services—can result in dental inequality, bad teeth also reinforce economic disadvantage. The workforce or daily wages worker of today increasingly needs a healthy smile. We would not want our drivers, house helps, nannies, office boys who all are the first point of contact with us or with our children to have an infected mouth at any point of time leave apart hiring a toothless driver or living with a house help who is continuously on leave due to toothache. These jobs are termed “emotional labour” as their job is transmitting happiness and service to the consumer—a task that demands a degree of oral health. Bad breath and missing teeth make it harder to get hired.
Toothlessness spells joblessness, which means lack of access to dental care, which in turn leads to more suffering. Vicious circle!!
Although there are some programmes wherein preventive services or dental awareness is implicated but no amount of prevention—not even the reduction of socioeconomic inequality itself—would eliminate the need for dental care, any more than it would eliminate the need for the care of cancer or heart disease.
We should implement a system of universal coverage that would make treatment available based on health needs, not means. This is the idea behind our project Karma. Basic oral health is the right of every human being, and many lives can be changed by empowering those with greatest needs. With KARMA, we envision provision of basic healthcare to one and all !!
If our work force is healthy than only we can be sure of our wellbeing and can work towards building a healthier society and nation too !!
Till next time,
Dr V. Thakran