Monday, November 1, 2010

A lesson in dental hygiene

Last week when I went to Gisenyi I took the bus with Mama Benjamin, who lives across the street, and her 7-year-old daughter. They were headed to the dentist because the daughter’s teeth are in a painfully rotted state. Remembering that I’d taken a bag of 75 toothbrushes from a case another volunteer had left up for grabs in the Peace Corps office, I promised them a toothbrush and brushing lesson when I returned.

Today I wandered over with a handful of differently colored toothbrushes. At Mama Benjamin’s table were teenaged son Benjamin and another woman from the next village over. Benjamin went to find his little sister and I was ironically served a Fanta. I explained that Fanta and sugar were primary causes of problems with teeth and offered them all toothbrushes (Benjamin snapped up the pink one; there’s no feminine connotation with pink here). I gave out 6 to Mama Benjamin and 6 to the other mother, who has 5 kids but no husband.

Then I took one for myself and explained that it was important to brush for 5 minutes, and to get the inside, top and outside of the teeth on top and bottom, going from one side to the other with each surface. Kinyarwanda has limited direction words and I have an even more limited grasp on them, so this was a bit complicated. To clarify I said that there were 6 steps and proceeded to brush my teeth covering each of the 6 surfaces from right to left, drooling slightly on myself as 4 people stared at me. I emphasized that they should use “good water” when brushing their teeth, although I’m not sure they even drink good water, but that’s another project for another day. Then I asked the little girl to demonstrate as I finished off my Fanta.

Later in the day the family gave me a piece of sugar cane (irony, take 2) and a bag of bananas as thanks - a pretty good trade for toothbrushes I got for free and the joy of spreading dental hygiene!


  1. don't know why, but "the joy of spreading dental hygiene" is pretty hilarious


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