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Poverty is universally recognised as a scourge because of its detrimental impact on societies. As per the World Bank, the poverty rate in Pakistan is reported at 39.3%, with 22% falling below the poverty line. Pakistan’s global ranking stands at 161 out of 192 countries. This indicates that a significant portion of the population struggles to fulfill basic necessities of food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, and education. All individuals who are unable to fulfill their basic needs due to poverty are eligible to receive charity. Those with resources should contribute generously through monetary donations, volunteering and demonstrating empathy towards those in need.

Dentistry, beyond its clinical dimension, holds a profound potential for philanthropy, particularly in regions where access to oral healthcare is limited. In Pakistan, where poverty intersects with inadequate oral healthcare infrastructure, dentists have emerged as key players in charitable endeavours aimed at addressing this disparity.

Pakistan, like many developing nations, grapples with significant challenges in providing adequate oral healthcare to its population. Limited access to dental facilities, especially in rural areas, coupled with financial constraints, exacerbates the problem. Improper utilisation of academically qualified dentists, further restricts access to professional services.

Against this backdrop, dentists in Pakistan have taken up the mantle of charity, recognising their unique position to make a tangible difference in the lives of underserved communities. Their charitable initiatives encompass various forms of assistance, including free dental camps, discounted or pro bono treatments, educational workshops on oral hygiene, and the establishment of low-cost dental clinics in remote areas.

The charitable efforts of dentists in the country have a multifaceted impact on individuals and communities. The dentists address immediate oral health needs, providing relief to individuals suffering from dental ailments. Their charity work helps alleviate the financial burden associated with dental care, enabling individuals to redirect scarce resources towards other essential needs. Some dentists go a step further by establishing low-cost dental clinics in underserved areas. These clinics offer a range of dental services at subsidized rates, making quality dental care accessible to those who would otherwise be unable to afford it. Establishing enduring infrastructure within marginalised communities, dentists secure ongoing access to oral healthcare, contributing to long-term improvements in oral health outcomes.

Many dentists offer discounted or pro bono treatments to patients who cannot afford the full cost of dental procedures. This includes procedures ranging from simple fillings and extractions to more complex treatments like root canals and dental implants. By reducing or waiving fees for economically deprived patients, dentists ensure that financial constraints do not prevent individuals from accessing essential dental care.

One of the most prevalent forms of charitable activity among dentists is organising free dental camps. These camps are often conducted in collaboration with non-profit organisations, government agencies, or local community groups. Dentists volunteer their time and expertise to provide check-ups, cleanings, and basic treatments to individuals who would otherwise go without dental care.

Dentists working in community dentistry department of various teaching institutions participate in or organise community outreach programmes to provide dental services to underserved populations, including those living in poverty. These programmes can include free or low-cost dental check-ups, cleanings, and basic treatments such as fillings and extractions.

In addition to providing direct clinical care, dentists engage in educational initiatives aimed at raising awareness about oral hygiene and preventive dental practices. They conduct workshops and seminars in schools, community centres, and other public spaces, allowing individuals to take charge of their oral health. They educate communities about oral health and encourage healthy habits to prevent dental issues from becoming serious ailment.

The author is a Dean, Faculty of Dentistry, Baqai Medical University