In unclean area at K.R. Market, roadside ‘dentists’ fix teeth

Bengaluru City Health

‘We are doing social service for 35 years’

Unqualified persons replace old teeth with new at the K.R. Market bus stand amid unhygienic conditions. They do the job with skills acquired from their fathers and grandfathers.

These dental shops are located in an open, unclean area. The water used in the process is not clean. The “doctors” don’t wear gloves. Their patients are from poor sections of society.

Alla Baksh, who owns a dental shop on the roadside, shared with The Observer that he has been doing this business for almost 35 years. “I learnt this skill from my father and it is now carried to my children.” 

His father started the business. “It is a social service that we are providing to people. We charge very little from the patients. We have helped a lot of people get new teeth.”

Anwar, another person who does a teeth-fixing job, said: “We don’t give them any treatment. No filling of teeth, no removal, no trimming and no clipping. We ask them to get these done from professionals. We only replace new teeth in the space that they already have. We just charge them the product cost; the service is free.”   

The tooth fixer charges 300/- to fix the teeth. “It depends on the patient and the number of teeths.” said Alla Baksh. 

Dr Kiran Singh, a dentist, informed The Observer: “The repercussions of teeth fixing can’t be detected very soon…. I don’t know how good or bad these are. There will be a floating population who visit the place with no clear knowledge. It is about the cost for these patients. Ethically, I think these shops shouldn’t continue. If it is just RPDs (removable partial dentures) which have nothing to do with tissues, it is fine except for the matter of hygiene.”

Dr Harrison Michael, a dental surgeon, said: “There are two perspectives here. As a professional doctor, I see the negative side of it. They are just mechanically doing the treatment which in the long term may not be good for the patients…. The factors that a qualified dentist would take care of while providing this treatment is totally different from what a lay person does. It is not good for patients. Another perspective is that… if they are doing something harmful, people would not go there.

“We look at how much a customer can pay. Based on that, the customer can pay a certain amount. In this, they are receiving service and also the risks and benefits…. That is why these street dentists continue to exist.”

Dr Michael, who has seen these shops function, said that he doesn’t see the unhygienic conditions in which they function as something life-threatening. “The infection risk is not too high. I would say the process is not hygienic rather than it is infectious.”

Poor people don’t visit the Government Dental College and Research Centre, near K.R. Market, preferring to visit the dental shops. 

Asked about this, Dr Harrison explained: “It is purely the cost that is making people visit such shops. If they had the required money, they could have afforded to go to a dental hospital.” 

Though a government dental hospital that charges minimal fees is 100 meters away, the poor can’t afford treatment there. Thus, they chose to go to roadside shops.

“Just because they learnt the skill without any cost, they are doing the service for free. I think if our doctors had learnt the skill without much investment, then they would have done the same kind of service. We have a lot of loopholes in our medical system when it comes to education. Our education system can only improve if the government starts supporting medical education,” Dr Michael said. 

“These kinds of setups have been going from generations to generations… Although the factor of cost affects many, I think these shops should not continue and we should have some qualified doctors to treat people.”

When The Observer tried to speak with a patient, he mumbled something and walked away after his treatment. Other patients of the roadside dentists refused to speak.

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