Roadside dentist- smart or shady?

roadside dentist_1

This roadside ‘dentist’ in the image below is all set up for his daily procedures. The instruments, sample dentures, and impression trays are laid out in an organized manner to attract customers. (Photo taken by Flickr user edenmiller in India)

Were you thinking of going for a ‘dental vacation’? Think again! We have all experienced some sort of bargaining with the roadside vendors, whether it be for paintings, carpets, souvenirs, etc. Now, how would you feel about bargaining with a roadside ‘dentist’ for a pair of dentures or maybe an extraction procedure?  Needless to say that the procedure will cost you a fraction of what it would if you went to a qualified dentist with sterilized equipment and years of training but is it worth the price difference at the cost of your own health? (Answer=No.)

In many parts of the world, it is absolutely possible to bargain for all kinds of dental treatments with a roadside dentist and no, I am not talking about a dentist who has a small office on the side of a street. I am talking about the so called ‘dentists’ who have their entire ‘office’ set up on the walkway next to a busy street. To most of us this concept sounds so foreign, however, it is very much practiced in certain parts of the world and these ‘dentists’ have a pretty large patient pool as well.  As you might have guessed, one of the biggest challenges is infection control.

Studies have suggested that in some countries, the roadside dentists have aided in the spread of HIV. In an international news report, it was noted that not only is the tooth treatment by these ‘dentists’ done  without anesthetics and with unsterilized primitive tools, it is painful and also very dangerous. Health practices of such sort have led to the rapid spread of all kinds of infectious diseases.  So why are these ‘dentists’ still practicing and have a large patient pool?

In the picture above (again, taken in India), the 'dentist' is also running a locksmith business. (Photo by Ivan Lian via Flickr)

In the picture above (again, taken in India), the ‘dentist’ is also running a locksmith business. (Photo by Ivan Lian via Flickr)

 

The answer  is just what you might have guessed…affordability.  Despite all the drawbacks, there is also a flip side to this picture.  In most of the third world countries, the rich are very rich and the poor are extremely poor.  With no centralized healthcare system and limited amount of resources, it is only natural that many individuals resort for these treatments and for them, these roadside healers are nothing short of a blessing. While these ‘dentists’ might have increased the risk of spreading infections, they also have provided immediate relief to many in distress.  The extractions performed by them have alleviated the pain and have stopped the possible spread of infection for many of their patients.  They also have enhanced the appearance of many by providing affordable dentures.

Tell us what you think of such practices and/or if you have ever come across a roadside dentist.

~Namra Amin, LECOM ’16

About Namra Amin

I am a D2 at LECOM School of Dental Medicine. I love to travel and learn about different cultures. Dentistry is my passion and I hope to some day provide dental services to those who are underserved.


Comments (10)

  1. Roger L Gillespie DDS

    What concerns me the most out of this article is the spread of HIV and any other types of infections that can occur while treating patients on the side of the road? I understand the affordability for these people because it’s too expensive to see a regular dentist, but I do have my concerns what the outcome will be for them. They may have temporary relief, but happens when they get an infection? Who do they go to for that?

    Reply
    • Namra

      You bring up a very valid point. According to my research, there are many homeopathic and eastern medicine providers that people can go to. A lot of these are remedies that have passed on and the people believe that they work. I will look more into this matter and write a second part of this article :). Thank you

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