Why did you do it?

People ask me 2 questions mainly. I'm going to answer them both. The most common one is: why did you give up dentistry? Then comes: do you miss it?

Dentistry is many things, and if you ask dentists what dentistry is, you'll get several answers and they're all correct. If you ask me, dentistry is in its essence, a fight to control oral disease. A long and chronic struggle of the forces of restorative, surgical and even chemical war-fare against pathology and negligence. In this war, battles are won. A dentist - with knowledge, skill and experience, who is continually learning and attending symposia, using equipment and materials from a massive and innovative dental industry and with the cooperation of the patient – can win battles. Pain is relieved, caries is controlled, perio is maintained, patients are satisfied. And that is very gratifying!

The battlefield, where the dentist takes on oral disease, is the patient's mouth. Dentists love a good battle. What happened to me is that I took the war too seriously. I looked up, from out of the trenches, long enough to notice the big picture. Caries (tooth decay) is rising, but not in an equal way across the globe – it follows the distribution of sugar intake, which makes sense. The crazy thing is: tooth decay is rising in the areas of the world where there is no dentistry, and even simple preventive measures such as a toothbrush and toothpaste are often out of reach. So, while we have been winning our battles in the comfort of our dental offices, caries is winning the war. I'm just a dentist who noticed this and wanted to be on the front-lines, where I'd have the greatest impact for my efforts. It's not like I left my life behind to save the whales or the amazon jungles, I just wanted to put up a fight with all I have, professionally and unprofessionally, in this war on child caries.

Do I miss dentistry? I miss winning the battles, yes.

Chechela Elementary School, Gondar, Ethiopia, 2016

Chechela Elementary School, Gondar, Ethiopia, 2016