Filling the gap: False teeth in the Philippines
In some instances, Americans may overlook quality dental care. For people of other countries, the focus may not be on preventing oral health problems as much as treating them.
The majority of residents in Paracale, a coastal province of Camarines Norte, Philippines, are said to have false teeth.
Al Cababay, the only denture maker in this gold mining town, himself a denture-wearer, admits he has no shortage of clients.
"Eighty percent of the residents of Paracale have false teeth," Cababay told Rappler.
He constructed his own teeth and the ones his daughter wears. Every day, he said he's rewarded with smiles from his neighbors. When he strolls around town, people approach him and say they need to have their teeth fixed or their children fitted with false teeth. He tells them to simply go to his house.
As good as he is, Cababay, who's a security guard for the Paracale National High School, makes dentures as a weekend job.
A lab technician for a dentist based in Daet, Cababay has been constructing dentures since 1987. To him, the craftsmanship is an art. He picked up the trade while in Manila, where he was studying to become an auto mechanic at Feati University. He started working for one of the big denture companies in the Quiapo-Recto area, a job that would hone his present-day craft.
"I have about 10 clients a week," Cababay told the source.
He uses the town's gold to fit some of his customers with a crown, cap or strip fashioned in the yellow metal. For these special cases, Cababay commissions the town's goldsmiths who specialize in handcrafted jewelry.
On Saturday morning, clients file into his house. Men with missing incisors, tight-lipped teenage girls and older workers pour in. The denture maker said most of his clients are "magkakabod?," or miners, who dive underwater. Compressor mining is a dangerous trade, and those who engage in it are generally repeat customers.
"They usually lose their teeth when they dive in the dark waters of their mining pits," explained Cababay. "Every time they dive, they need to bite into a hose. Once underwater, with the hose between their teeth, they eventually lose their dentures."
The oral health problem is certainly larger than just missing teeth. Based on the Philippines 2011 National Monitoring and Evaluation Dental Survey, roughly 87 percent of Filipinos suffer from cavities while 48.3 percent have periodontal disease. Philippines Department of Health spokesperson Ted Herbosa said although teeth and gum problems do not seem to be a priority for many Filipinos, oral health can affect an individual's well-being.
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