Founded by Dr Vijay Tamhane,Edentulous Support Society reaches out to toothless people by offering free consultation and a set of dentures
A visit to the dentist can unnerve most people. Children grow up hearing their parents threats of taking them to the dentist to have their teeth pulled out if they ate too much candy. This childhood terror is only reinforced when you see the scary tooth models and sharp tools by the dentists chair. Dr Vijay Tamhane sits in a similar office surrounded by pink and white models of teeth and a myriad of stainless steel instruments. But what sets him apart,is that he doesnt remove teeth,he gives them back to people.
In his office sit scores of pictures which show people with what can only be called a battisi smile,showing off 36 perfect pearly whites people who smile because of this dentist. Tamhane,who has private practices in Chinchwad and on Dhole Patil Road,is a dental implantologist,or a dental surgeon who implants new tooth for those who have lost theirs,free of cost. This may sound like an obscure occupation,but its surprising when he reveals how many people actually require dental implants. In a 2009 study,I had read that 18 per cent of all Indian adults are edentulous,or without teeth. This comes up to 62 million people without teeth and the numbers have only been growing since 2009, he says. The same figures prompted him to set up the Edentulous Support Society,or the EDS,to tackle the lack of awareness about the problems that edentulous people face. In India,missing teeth are seen as a natural sign and effect of old age,and are not really viewed as a problem. But for the person whose teeth are missing,it is very uncomfortable, says Tamhane.
One of the most obvious problems that they face is their inability to chew food. Not only does this reduce their taste and interest in food,it also means lower nutrition because the food isnt broken down. Nutrition is of course a big problem,but these patients also say that they suffer from a lack of confidence and are depressed in social settings. Many of them are afraid to smile because they think it looks ugly. Others are conscious of how they sound when they are talking, Tamhane explains. Even otherwise,the lack of teeth changes the facial structure of people,and deep wrinkles form around their mouths.
According to Tamhane,several senior citizens continue to suffer simply because they are unaware of dentures and implants. So the EDS has tied up with senior citizen clubs in Pune,Mumbai,Nagar and other places in the state to target the right audience. We have organized several seminars and lectures to explain what kinds of treatment are there and how their life will change with dentures, he says. The organisation has also hosted several talks and camps where they educate the younger population on the importance of maintaining oral hygiene. There are some elderly people who attend the EDS camps and seminars,but can do little to change their own fortunes because they dont have the resources. For these patients,Tamhane and his team of dentists have set up a fund,so that they can get consultations and fitted dentures free of cost.
In the four years since the organisations conception,over 100 dentists across Maharashtra have joined EDS,and together they have treated over 12,000 patients. Now Tamhane hopes to take the EDS initiative to the national level,with tie-ups in other cities too.