Thursday, September 20, 2012

The tooth

Monica met me at the gate last week, her arms full of the delectable homemade peanut butter which she sells, which our family could possibly keep in business single-handedly. My kids always get excited for her carmel-colored little plastic jars. Monica has a radiant, nearly ever-present smile, ironic considering the tremendous road she has walked in her life.

When I asked her there at the gate about her daughter, who is usually away at boarding school, her smile turned downward. Her daughter had a toothache--a bad one. The tooth needed to be removed. She was in pain 24/7, and couldn't eat anything. Her daughter is only sixteen or so, so I was sorry to hear this.

This is very common here. There are many gaps in wide Ugandan smiles, a good handful missing even the front tooth. Dental care is costly when you can't always afford to eat, and Ugandans like a lot of sugar in their tea. In fact last week, since our family still in the tooth-losing phase--the good kind--at our house, J. was delighted to report that one of the guards had lost a tooth in front. Definitely not as fun when you are an adult.

Monica was concerned about the cost of removing the tooth. But apparently, she needn't be. On Friday when I checked up with her, she happily recounted that her daughter was able to find a dentist who usually worked on prisoners, so was thrilled to help a schoolgirl in uniform for only 3000 Ugandan shillings. That's about $1.25. She even got a shot of Novocaine to go with the deal, though from the sounds of it, she might have needed an antibiotic and a stitch, too.

A dollar twenty-five. Shoot. I wondered, are we overpaying in the U.S.?

And then I wondered, do you want your tooth pulled by the guy who treats prisoners and is happy to do it for $1.25?

No comments: