Written by Devin Vanderpool, Director of Communications
Oral health and hygiene is a topic that makes many of us cringe. The thought of a dentist poking and drilling away inside of our mouths prevents many of us from making our recommended appointments every six months. And yet most of us know that oral health is important. We know that problems in our mouth can lead to health issues throughout our bodies. “For example, oral diseases are linked with diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, and some cancers; while having diabetes increases the risk of getting gum disease.” “Oral diseases can impact every aspect of life, from personal relationships and self-confidence to school to work to even enjoying food.” So we brush our teeth. Some of us even floss.
But this type of preventative care is unheard of in places like Haiti. Even when dental groups go through, much of the focus is on extraction, getting painful teeth out of people’s mouths to remove their suffering.
And it isn’t as if people in Haiti don’t know that oral health is important. They understand that healthy teeth are an important part of a healthy lifestyle. They want healthy teeth just as much as you or me! We at LiveBeyond see oral disease for what it is – oppression. It’s an oppression caused by lack of resources. And since sugar is a staple in Haitian diets (just as it is in our own) rotting teeth are a common sight. So many in Haiti don’t have access to basics like toothpaste and good toothbrushes to take care of their teeth.
And that’s a problem. One we can’t stand. So we, along with organizations like the World Dental Federation, are finding ways to help people gain access to supplies useful for better oral health. We have an Amazon Wishlist for hygiene kits containing toothbrushes and toothpaste to pass out to women in our Maternal Health program, children in our Kè Pou Timoun program, and the thousands of patients we see in our clinic throughout the year. We have teams of dentists and dental hygienists that come down throughout the year to offer dental clinics to those in need. We have a room in our clinic dedicated to dental needs and treatment, and a team of dentists and dental hygienists with international experience that help us gather supplies necessary for better treatment options for our friends in Haiti.
Oral diseases affect 3.9 billion people worldwide. Millions in Haiti suffer from poor oral health, simply because they don’t have access to the right supplies. A nice tube of toothpaste costs less than $3; a good toothbrush is about 27 cents. So, for less than the cost of a nice coffee or a cheap burger, you could provide someone in need with the tools for good oral health for about 3 months; the cost of a nice meal could provide their needs for a year. Isn’t that a price we should be willing to pay to relieve the suffering of others? Join me in promoting World Oral Health Day and supporting organizations that provide oral health care in developing countries.