Hesperian Health Guides

Chapter 2: Teaching Family and Friends in Your Community

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HealthWiki > Where There Is No Dentist > Chapter 2: Teaching Family and Friends in Your Community


Old people can remember when there were fewer problems with teeth and gums. Children’s teeth were stronger and adults kept their teeth longer.

Times are changing. Today there are more tooth and gum problems than ever before. In many countries, tooth decay and gum disease are two of the fastest growing health problems.

This unhealthy situation is getting worse, for two reasons: changes in the kind of food people now are eating, and not enough cleaning after they eat.

BEFORE, the food people ate was their own, grown and prepared by themselves. NOW, more people are buying softer and sweeter food from the store. This kind of food sticks to the teeth more easily so it has more time to attack the teeth and gums.
a boy chewing on sugar cane.
a girl eating a store-bought chocolate bar.
Even sugar cane was not as bad as the sticky candy children eat today. The sugar was bad for the teeth, but the fiber in the cane helped rub them clean. Everyone must be more careful to clean away soft, sweet food. But many people do not know how. Some, especially children, do not even try.


Many people do not understand that tooth and gum problems are caused by certain kinds of food, and poor cleaning of the teeth. In fact, some have a completely different belief.

a woman speaking with a man.
Oh! My tooth hurts! It must be from my uncle.
I made him angry before he died.
There may be another reason. Eating sweet food
and not cleaning your teeth
can hurt them and make them weak.


Do not attack a belief because it is traditional. Many traditions are more healthy than 'modern' things. Often, instead of telling people that their belief is wrong, you can remind them of a different tradition that is healthy.

Help your family and friends to recognize their healthy traditions. Then help them find new ways to use these same traditions for better health.



a man and 2 women speaking.
Our people do not use toothbrushes. We do not have money to buy such things at the store.
But we can make for ourselves many of the things the store sells.
Yes, and we can make our own toothbrushes from the twig of a tree!


This page was updated:19 Feb 2018