Dental Technology and Poverty
Sometimes, when I am at office I didn’t realize that my profession is so technology dependent. My dental chair, handpiece, curing light and all dental stuff are technology products that need more technology to maintain them in service. Imagine dental restoration. without air turbine or caries diagnostic without x-ray. How can I make my job?
Dental Health for Rich people, tooth extraction for everyone else.
A few weeks ago, I receive a mail asking me to travel to help poor people in my country highlands where electric power is not available, so any of my tech tools can help. To get there I must traveled by bus 14 hours, then jumped on an old pickup bed for 6 hours and finally rode a horse 1 more day, of course I have expended two nights resting in different towns. When I was there, for the very first time I realized how difficult would be treat people in that place. The treatment options are so limited when technology is not available: tooth extraction or ionomer restoration previous ART.
That’s how for a week, moral conflict and guilty feelings were my companions in this adventure. I extracted teeth that could be restored in my office, simply because they can be treated by ART technics.
Yes!!! 120 teeth extracted in one week in 40 patients. Autoclave steam sterilization was not an option, so chemical and clean water were the only available to sterilize the surgical instruments.
Dental Technology Challenge
Coming back home, the river level rose because a heavy rain in the andes and had to stay for a few days at a town waiting the river got back to normal levels that allows the pickup went through. I used time wisely and talk to team members about our experience and how to improve the treatment techniques using low resources. We realized that the state-of-the-art dental technology, didn’t keep in mind situations like treatment in locations where electricity is not available.
A simple restorative handpiece with solar rechargeable batteries could be helpful. ART technic is very exhausted and after a while operator’s efficiency is questionable. New technics and affordable technology must be invented which can help the needy, but I think this may not profitable for dental technology manufacturers.
Maybe is time to leave count dollars and start to count people. Half of world’s population lived in need with less than $2 USD per day and I just talking about dental caries, think about pneumonia, AIDS, tuberculosis, or hunger, those illnesses that can kill. (2)
Returning to dental topics and poverty, I give some facts that may helpful (3):
- Worldwide, 60–90% of school children and nearly 100% of adults have dental cavities.
- Dental cavities can be prevented by maintaining a constant low level of fluoride in the oral cavity.
- Severe periodontal (gum) disease, which may result in tooth loss, is found in 15–20% of middle-aged (35-44 years) adults.
- Globally, about 30% of people aged 65–74 have no natural teeth.
- Oral disease in children and adults is higher among poor and disadvantaged population groups.
- Risk factors for oral diseases include an unhealthy diet, tobacco use, harmful alcohol use and poor oral hygiene, and social determinants.