Like other forms of quackery, street dentistry is also thriving in Karachi city. Lea Market and Saddar are the places where many self-taught dentists display dentures, tooth moulds and banners with catchy messages like, ‘we offer cheap treatment to all kinds of tooth problems’, ‘dental treatment with money back guarantee’, tested formulas for your teeth, etc’.
Poor people are seen visiting these roadside dental clinics. An aged man, attended to by a quack dentist, told this scribe that he could not afford going to dental clinics for lack of money. He said he and many of his family members and friends were used to visit roadside dentists whose fees were affordable. He said he had no complaints against these ‘messiahs’, as they took care of their teeth in return of a small fee.
One of the quacks said that he had learnt dentistry from his forefathers and had many clients in the city and adjoining areas. He did not possess any degree or certificate and said he was as good a dentist as the dental college graduates. He said he normally earned around Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 a month, and was satisfied with the business.
He said he, like other dental practitioners, offered tooth cleaning, filling, scaling and crowning and treated tooth bleeding and toothache and could also implant new teeth.
He said his formulas worked quickly and his patients were satisfied with his way of treatment. He also had a bag, which he uses to attend to patients at home.
Another quack said he had been in the business for over 10 years. He said that he extracted teeth without injuring the gums, fixed dentures and treated toothache.
He also said that he made dentures at cheaper rates than the hefty sums charged by the “baboos”. He said most of his clients came from poor backgrounds, as they could not afford going to proper dental clinics. “Had our treatment been unhygienic and harmful, people would have stopped visiting use,” he said.
When contacted, a senior doctor of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) told this scribe that quack dentists were not equipped to treat patients. Requesting anonymity, the doctor, said quacks used unclean and unsterilised tools, which caused infection. “We often receive many dental cases that had been spoiled by street dentists,’ the doctor said. These people, he said, were a cause of spreading Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C due to a lack of hygiene and sterilisation in their treatment techniques.
He said that health authorities were negligent towards the problem as a result of which the business was thriving.