Recently, I visited a couple of the most eastern provinces of Cuba.
While staying in a very nice casa particular, I noticed the cleaning lady had very bad teeth. She was talkative, but she was very self conscious and would always cover her mouth. I learned that she was only 30 years old and had two children. I eventually asked her why she did not have dental work done for free by the state. Her answer was most enlightening.
She told me that, yes, she could have the work done, but there were no good dentists in the city (one of the largest in the east). The few good dentists were working on there own and charging much more than the average Cuban could afford. The good dentists had access, through the black market, to newer instruments and anesthesia that were not available from the state doctors. Dental work with no anesthesia? That would certainly prevent me from having any work done in my mouth.
About a month after I returned to the U.S. I received an e-mail from this cleaning lady. I had encouraged her to seek out a dentist and get an evaluation. She was told that her best option was to have all her teeth removed and be fitted with a complete set of dentures. She never asked for any money, but the price seemed quite reasonable to me, so I offered.
She was nervous and scared, but thrilled to have the opportunity to smile again.
The entire extraction process took over two weeks and was done in stages because the dentist had to search out and purchase anesthesia and pain medicine for the extraction sessions.
Dentures were made, again by a private technician and not by the state. Eventually this woman got her new teeth and her smile back.
I have to thank my small group of friends for their generous finacial support and trust in me. These are all friends who have been to Cuba, seen the poverty, and have helped before.
Thank you Victoria, Louise, Kate, Susan, Pamela, Tracy, Faye, and yes, even Roberto.
Cell phone images e-mailed to me: