Where There Is No Dentist 2012 vii
by David Werner
A healthy tooth is a living part of the body. It is connected by ‘life-lines’ of
blood and nerve to a person’s heart and brain. To separate the tooth from the
body, or even to interrupt those ‘life-lines’, means death to the tooth. It also
means pain and injury to the body, to the person.
Let us look at it another way. The health of the teeth and gums is related to
the health of the whole person, just as the well-being of a person relates to
the health of the entire community.
Because of this, the usual separation between dentistry and general health
care is neither reasonable nor healthy. Basic care of the teeth and gums—
both preventive and curative—should be part of the ‘know-how’ of all primary
health care workers. Ideally, perhaps, Where There Is No Dentist should be
a part of Where There Is No Doctor. Think of it as a companion volume, both
to Where There Is No Doctor and Helping Health Workers Learn.
Murray Dickson has taken care to write this book in a way that will help the
readers see dental care as part of community health and development. The
approach is what we call ‘people centered.’
Where There Is No Dentist is a book about what people can do for
themselves and each other to care for their gums and teeth. It is written for:
• village and neighborhood health workers who want to learn more
about dental care as part of a complete community-based approach to
• school teachers, mothers, fathers, and anyone concerned with
encouraging dental health in their children and their community; and
• those dentists and dental technicians who are looking for ways to
share their skills, to help people become more self-reliant at lower cost.
Just as with the rest of health care, there is a strong need to
‘deprofessionalize’ dentistry—to provide ordinary people and community
workers with more skills to prevent and cure problems in the mouth. After
all, early care is what makes the dentist’s work unnecessary—and this is the
care that each person gives to his or her own teeth, or what a mother does
to protect her children’s teeth.