Nothing has made me love my modern dentists more than seeing this scene in rural China. I took this picture at the appropriately named Sha Ping market just north of Dali in the Yun Nan province. It takes planes, trains, and a long, bumpy bus ride to get there, or at least it did in 1998 when I went.
I hope you can zoom in on the picture–the dentist has a marvelous ash about to fall off his cigarette as he pumps his treadle drill by foot. My wonderful dentist here in Klamath Falls, Dr. Arthur Belsky, pointed out the pliers and display of pulled teeth on the table. He says in this old way of doing dentistry it’s important to show off some pulled teeth with the roots intact, demonstrating that you can get the whole thing out at once without breaking the roots.
His patient is a lady who looks to be about 70. Though in rural China, that could be 50 or 90, it’s hard to tell. There may be a bottle of rubbing alcohol on the cluttered little table, but it doesn’t look like there’s much hope for sanitation in his makeshift clinic.
I could go on about the implications about healthcare in rural China and how that played into Chairman Mao’s decision to promote a somewhat modernized Traditional Chinese Medicine through the barefoot doctors, but I think you probably get the point from this picture.
If you’re lucky enough to have a dentist who works indoors and doesn’t power the drill with a foot-pump, make sure to smile big and say “Thank You!” next time you go.
Tonight I’m going to do an extra-good flossing!