Takin’ it to the Streets: Roadside Dentists

dentures and dentist tools laid out on a blanket

These are very confusing days when it comes to healthcare. In some states like California, even if you have insurance it’s a complete shot in the dark if its accepted from one practice to the next. What does one do in a situation like this? Or worse, when you’re off your parents plan, but you’re working a 10-99 job and have no benefits?

There are ways to solve this dilemma…but you won’t like them, nor should you attempt them. One answer to this desperate situation: seek out a roadside dentist for cheap dental upkeep. Sounds crazy? Well, they’re turning up more and more in countries around the world.

The Man on the Street

While unofficial, shady dental offices operate in many countries (Californians often travel to our southern neighbor for care), it is the Indian subcontinent that boasts true “roadside” dentists.

These kinds of scenes are popping up more and more. This ‘practice’ is in Bundi and the boy may very well be a dental assistant.

Just like you might see a street vendor with a carpet with his wares laid out, these dentists do the same with their practice. Sample dentures, impressions, and all the tools of the trade are spread out to entice the passer-by who might be at the end of their rope. Some of these dentists also advertise other professions alongside their practice.

Even if these dental vendors are skilled in their art, the major problem they pose to patients is infection. In India and Pakistan, these street side dentists  have been contributing to the spread of HIV. It’s not hard to understand why. They handle dozens of patients with rough, unsterilized tools over and over again. Also, there’s no anesthesia.

These roadside dentists are not limited to the subcontinent. Here one is at work in the city of Liuzhou, China.

Room for Aggressive Expansion

What keeps these ‘practices’ in operation is obvious: they’re cheap. In underdeveloped countries, wealth is far more unevenly distributed than here and their healthcare far worse. So these dentists may aid the spread of infection, but they can also provide the only relief for many.

Though these dentists may help infections spread, they often are the only ones with access to the right tools and skills for those in need.

What’s frustrating is that there are probably many of these roadside doctors with enough skill to pass as dentists. They may lack formal education, but sheer experience might compensate for that. The obstacle though is sterilization. There must be a relatively cheap and effective way to do this. It may not be up to our standards, but it’s better than nothing.


Dr. Sam Sadati is the owner and practitioner of The Sadati Center of Aesthetic Dentistry in West Palm Beach and a leader in the world of cosmetic dentistry and smile design. He is the only accredited cosmetic dentist in all of South Florida and is one of only forty dentists in the world to receive an Accredited Fellow honor from the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD).  Apart from creating beautiful smiles, Dr. Sadati enjoys photography, travel, and the opportunity to tell a good joke.  If you have a question or comment, dental-related or otherwise, connect with us on Facebook or Twitter. We always reply to our fans and followers!