The Need

Dr. Ray Damazo
Photo Album

“My life is significantly
easier than most
of the people in this world.
Because of that, I have a
huge responsibility!  I must
do all I can to pass that
blessing on to others
I can change the lives
of many people . . .  
This trip was a humbling
and inspiring one that
helped me to reset
my spiritual thermostat.


  1. The Need of the Maasai for Dental Care
  2. The Need of Loma Linda University Students (click here)
  3. The Need for Volunteers (Dentists and Dental Hygienists)

The Maasai people traditionally don’t use toothbrushes, toothpaste or have access to regular checkups and fluoride treatments. Remarkably, a few of the Maasai have “perfect” teeth. Those that do brush do so a couple times a month, with a brush made from sugar cane.

There has been a rapid increase in cavities in the teeth of children, which can be attributed to the distribution of candy to them by tourists. The Maasai Mara National Park in Kenya is one of the most popular tourist destinations, attracting about 750,000 tourists annually so there is plenty of opportunity to take in “sweets.” Despite education, parents are not able to comprehend the connection between sugar and cavities.

According to Damazo, most of the dental procedures among the Maasai are routine. What adds the “spice” to bush dentistry is the sometimes colorful people and the stories that accompany their dental woes.

One such patient was 65-year old Chief John Oloodo, a Maasai elder. He spoke fluent English and carried an American-style briefcase which held only a single photograph of himself. The chief was missing his upper four front teeth. While it was not a problem for any of his four wives, the 18-year old woman he wanted to become wife number five refused to marry him until he got new front teeth. Oloodo returned some time later requesting new molars because potential wife number six would not marry him!

Damazo further states that “A 17-year-old woman who was eight months pregnant, walked about 12 miles in 92-degree heat, without water or snacks, to obtain much-needed dental care.

“The parents of another teen, who was missing her upper central teeth, wanted him to give her new teeth so they could arrange a marriage in which the family would receive a dowry of 12 cows -- the equivalent of one year’s income.”

Not many dentists have patients enter their office carrying spears, pangas (machetes) or rongas (clubs). Damazo reported that one patient sat with an AK-47 on his lap while the dentist worked. He was a member of the Kenya Police Patrol, who guarded the Maasai Mara Park from poachers and would-be thieves.

Some patients have scars, and stories, from lion and leopard attacks. Then there are those who suffer from self-dentistry. A gap between front teeth is desired and some Maasai will use a hacksaw to create one. Chiefs practice crude bush dentistry, using unsterilized forceps to pull teeth or a knife to cut out affected teeth.

Some patients have AIDS and it’s not uncommon to see patients with Kaposi’s sarcoma, an oral manifestation of AIDS. More than 1,000 people die each day from AIDS. Dentists working in Africa use all of the barrier precautions of modern dentistry.  

Hard candy given by tourist visiting the Maasai Mara Reserve is responsible for the damage of the teeth of this four-year old. She still has several years before  getting her permanent upper anterior teeth.


Five-year old Riola with decay in almost every deciduous tooth. She was born near the gate of the Maasai Mara Game Reserve and showered with tourist candy.


Teplitt, a seven year old Maasai boy shows the effect of decayed deciduous teeth which have not fallen out (exfoliating), deflecting permanent teeth into a life of malocclusion or crooked alignment. Finding decay in the teeth of the Maasai children was rare prior to tourists being told to take some candy for the “poor African children.”




[Home] [About Us] [Founder] [Photos] [The Need] [LLUSD Need] [Download] [Giving/ Volunteer] [Contact Us] [Calendar]