Several dental colleagues of mine recently went on a mission to Northern Kenya to perform desperately needed dental services. They told of a local tribal custom of taking infants 1-2 weeks old to a village elder who removes the child’s primary canine toothbuds. The villagers believe that if these teeth are not removed, the child’s head will develop abnormally and the child will be susceptible to disease. Another custom is that of taking 10 year olds to have their lower front teeth removed so that a space is created. No anesthesia is used. The missing lower front teeth identify a member of the Daasanatch tribe from the village of Illeret.
Low income and low education levels are related to poor dental health. These villagers live in temporary mud houses called manyattas. There is an elementary school but education is sporadic because the people are nomads seeking new pastures for their livestock. There is a high incidence of hepatitis, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. The average life span is 40-50 years.