“Just have them chew on sticks from trees, that’s all they can afford anyway.”
“You really think that if you give these people toothbrushes, they will listen to you.”
“Why should I even care? Why do you care?”
These are just a couple of the negative remarks I have gotten from people in regards to my request to help us with our newest project- donating brushes, paste and other oral hygiene materials to the Indian Dental Association’s dental camp this coming fall.
Ashwin Naidu, a TEDs Fellow, gave me some words of advice, “For every 10 No’s there is always a Yes.” That one yes is a worthy enough reason to continue to pursue this cause.
I am going to share some statistics and stories from my research as to why this should matter and why you should be a vessel for hope. We are all called to be citizens of our community, but sometimes we forget that we are indeed citizens of the world as well. Access to resources to be healthy should be a right. But, that is not the case for some of the people in India. And yes, a toothbrush can have a profound affect on overall health and well- being. Oral hygiene should not be dismissed.
Fact: “Only 10% of dentists where approximately 70% of the Indian population resides.”
Because of this, people who experience dental complications have to see Dental Quacks, unauthorized dentists. Their treatment tools consist of unsterile screwdrivers and pliers. The infections afterwards from these dental quacks are even more detrimental to the patient than what they originally came in for. A five year old boy went for a simple tooth extraction, but a week later, he passed away from an infection because the tool was contaminated. The first step is getting children a brush so they do not have to be put in these situations. The next step is to reform the health policy, but unfortunately that will not happen unless people start understanding and caring.
Fact: “According to a survey, the prevalence of dental caries in children aged 5 years was 50%; 52.5% in 12 year olds; 61.4% in 15 year olds; 79.2% in 35–44 year olds; and 84.7% in 65–74 year olds.”
The children lack the resources they need to take care of their teeth (whether that be the tangible brushes or the knowledge of health practices). “63.8% of mothers did not know the importance of brushing their child’s deciduous teeth, and 84.3% mothers did not know that oral diseases can affect general health.” This is one of the main reasons why we admire the Indian Dental Association. Their Children’s Day camp helps mothers and their children learn about good oral hygiene practices. Children are the leaders of the future and if they have healthy habits, then we can create a generational change.
Fact: Dental diseases affect the rest of the body
“26% of the Indian population is living below the poverty line”. It’s only 26% right? The population in India is estimated to be 1,350,438,098 and 26% of that is 351,113,905.48 people. That does not seem so small anymore. This means that if a dad had to take a day off from work because of a dental related illness, which is not at all uncommon, his family of five is unable to eat that day.
Oral health affects overall health.
As global citizens, it is our duties to aspire to give every being the right to be healthy. And yes, that starts with a toothbrush, something that we take for granted. A toothbrush embodies an initiative to recognize the importance of oral health and that is a cause worth talking about.
Muskaan donates these hygiene materials and other resources to children, through the Indian Dental Association, and to villages, through Ashwin Naidu’s Nonprofit Fishing Cat Conservancy. We believe in the power of one YES and I would be incredibly grateful if you support our mission. No one should ever be denied access to a toothbrush. Help us change the attitudes surrounding oral health in India and donate today. We will not stop until everyone has a toothbrush in their hands. One dollar gives four people in India a toothbrush.