Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Dental Dams and a Note on Tsotsi

I went to the dentist yesterday in Bedfordview, my ritzy suburb (I am fully expecting a call from the powers-that-be at any moment informing me that my crap car is grounds for expulsion). In the waiting room, next to thumbed through and slightly gummy issues of Style Magazine from 2004, were ammo magazines and some nifty gun catalogues. My dentist concluded that I had "healthy, strong, American teeth" but told me that Italians, Chinese and some other ethnic group are more susceptible to plaque build-up due to higher than "normal" consumption of carbohydrates. That was an odd racial theory, even for South Africa. I asked him if my addiction to Crest Premium Whitestrips was of any concern, and when he replied with a blank stare, I knew ignorance was bliss.

Some interesting dental practices:
1. He didn't ask if I was pregnant prior to taking X-rays (I mean I'm not but still... that should be standard fare).
2. It's illegal for clinicians (including dentists) to ask the HIV status of patients prior to treatment, so clinicians regard all patients as likely HIV carriers. That means intensely high levels of sanitation and extreme precaution (this is of course in private medical facilities as opposed to government-funded public institutions) which I hope to see employed in medical facilities in the States.
3. This dentist has worked on really indigent and suffering people in Swaziland who have never received any preventative dental care in their lifetime. It is a bit mind-boggling to be obsessed with cosmetic dentistry (me) but know that dentistry, at its core throughout most of the world, is a last-ditch attempt to save teeth from rotting out and stop excruciating pain with minimum resources.
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Okay, after some reconsideration, I concede that Tsotsi is a bit cheesy and overwrought as a film. Maybe you have to be really into South Africa to find any quasi-introspective look at township life (as opposed to the usual panning images of masses of black faces or some superficial commentary on all the millionaires in Soweto)at all interesting or meaningful. I just want to caution you that the film depicts the very worst of South Africa existence, not by any means a depiction of what my daily life looks like (so don't worry Mom). Anyway, sometimes you give up walkable streets in favor of mangos the size of footballs and a chance to chase a dream- to really learn about an epidemic that will alter the very demography of our world (not just Africa) for decades to come and hopefully develop the tools to help the many other countries who will contend with dying masses and falling mortality in the next ten years.

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