On going to the dentist

We went to the dentist a few weeks ago. Beth does not like going to the dentist…most people don’t. For some reason I sort of like it. You go lay in a comfy chair, close your eyes, open you mouth, and somebody cleans you teeth. You don’t even have to do anything. When your done your teeth feel nice and sparkly.

I was thinking about this a bit though….going to the dentist is sort of a great expression of wealth. You know those Roman emperors in movies who have people fanning them and feeding them? Same thing. When you go to the dentist you are paying somebody to brush your teeth. Thats kind of crazy.

Ok, its a bit of a simplification…i mean they are cleaning your teeth really well, and they take xrays and stuff, but really, i could floss my own teeth, i just dont.

So, I wondered what the real statistics are on poverty vs. access to oral health care. Im sure they are out there, but I did not find much that was really easy to access (im not writing a thesis here…so, im not going to spend to much time on this!) But, it is true to say that “families with higher incomes were more likely to visit the dentist than people in families with lower incomes” in the United States. Which is kind of self evident I guess. A quick look through the 2011 WHO statistics for dentist per capita shows at least some correlation between being a relatively poor country and having a lower number of dentists per capita (Luxembourg: 8/10000, United States: 16.3/10000, Uganda: .02/10000, Congo: .05/10000. number 2, 7, 163, and 181 respectively on the world list of GDP per Capita). The US has the most per capita, which is not surprising really.

Here is my takeaway from thinking abou this though. If you can pay somebody to do something for you that is kind of amazing. We do it all the time. We pay people to cook for us, to bring us our food, and to wash the dishes. We pay people to make our double tall grande soy with ice whip 102 degrees whatever fancy drink, we pay people to mow our lawns, fix our stuff, and build things for us. Thats all great, and I am glad to pay people for skills I don’t have. But I want to respect those people…to see them as gifted people who do important things. And I want to appreciate the fact that I can go to the dentist and pay them to floss my teeth. I have great resources available to me.

One last thing. If your interested in statistics you should check out www.gapminder.org/. Its a fun little data visualization tool….which apparently can’t plot dentist per capita vs GDP per capita…but its still fun.


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