Health is a basic human right, of which oral health is an integral part. Oral health care must then take into consideration the root causes of poor general health. In the developing world, these root causes are poverty and powerlessness. Since oral health is a part of the overall well-being of people and their communities, it must then extend into the social and political structures that enable or disable these same people. The painful reality is that health is a political issue and not simply a matter of providing services by professionals. Until the collective will of humanity is moved to value, respect and honor the basic rights of all, our best efforts will continue to be "band aid", treating the symptom and not the disease.
Promoting oral health means different things to different people. The result is a spectrum of views, spanning from a treatment approach to a preventative development approach. There is a tendency to want to assign a relative importance to each, valuing some more than others. After a decade of working in the blood, spit and dirt, our experiences lead us to the view that they are all important and necessary. Community based preventative programs offer nothing to the child crying from a toothache right now: relief of pain by itself is not the answer. There is not one complete solution to the problem. What is important is the desire and any attempt to make a difference. Real change is conceived in wanting and born in doing. Better to light one candle than curse the dark.