As promised here is a review of Where There Is No Dentist by Murray Dickson, copyrighted in 1983 and updated in 2020 (ISBN: 978-0-942364-05-7) by Hesperian Health Guides.

This book is aimed at health care workers and non-medical people that have an interest in, and burden for, underserved people of the world. Part One is for what I call village health care workers in (third world) countries. If you aren’t doing that kind of work then skip directly to Part 2. Many have predicted that the skills taught in Part Two of this book will be used in the USA during any kind of prolonged civil unrest. For that reason Part Two can be thought of as a self-help manual or guidebook for post-apocalyptic dentistry. What follows are my brief notes from each of the chapters.


Overview of the importance of teeth. Oral care as a part of overall primary care of individuals and communities. The need to train community workers to handle simpler tasks (drilling, filling, and pulling). The need for community education, especially about preventative care.


Chap 1 Your Own Teeth and Gums

Eat more traditional foods and avoid sweet, packaged foods.

Basic cleaning, basic problems. Care of gums.

Chap 2 Teaching Family and Friends in Your Community

Traditional foods best, not modern sugary foods. Be a good example yourself. Each person can teach someone else.

Chap 3 Teaching Children at School

Teach so that kids learn, building on what they do know. Use hands-on activities whenever possible. Use lots of visual aids to teach in schools and communities.

Chap 4 School Activities for Learning About Teeth and Gums

Ideas especially for school programs and school kids.

Chap 5 Taking Care of Teeth and Gums

Prevention and early treatment are always best. Good nutrition and cleaning are important.


Chap 6 Examination and Diagnosis

Oral exams, instruments, making proper diagnoses.

Chap 7 Treating Some Common Problems

Cleanliness and sterile technique. Cavities, abscesses, sinus problems, tooth trauma, loose teeth, teething in babies, gum disease, fever blisters, thrush, canker sores, broken or dislocated jaws, pain , blood, infection, noma, tumors, cancer, meth mouth.

Chap 8 Scaling Teeth

How to remove tartar by hand.

Chap 9 Injecting Inside the Mouth

Equipment, where and when to inject, injecting upper teeth, injecting lower teeth.

Chap 10 How to Fill a Cavity

When to fill teeth and the types of fillings. Using temporary dental cement, ART filling material, and permanent fillings with a dental drill.

Chap 11 Taking Out a Tooth

Instruments and techniques of tooth removal and post-operative care.

Chap 12 HIV and Care of the Teeth and Gums


Dental kits, suggestions for supplies, antibiotics, making your own instruments, recordkeeping.

In summary I thought Part Two was very helpful. It is a good book to have for your group’s medical/dental team.



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