Syrians unable to treat their teeth, Extraction turns the only solution

A dental clinic in Syria - August 14, 2023 (SANA)

A dental clinic in Syria - August 14, 2023 (SANA)

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Enab Baladi – Baraa Khattab

The rise in prices was not limited to foodstuffs and citizens’ basic needs but also affected medicine and the health sector in general and dental treatment in particular.

Dental treatment costs rose in regime-controlled areas, in conjunction with the rise in prices, after the announcement of a 100% increase in public sector salaries last month.

While the Pharmacists Syndicate announced a 50% increase in the price of medicines, some doctors linked the high costs of dental treatment to the high prices of materials and the difficulty of obtaining them sometimes.

The high cost in the dental sector has been accompanied by the hesitation of low-income patients, and many of them now prefer to extract the tooth and dispense with it completely due to the high cost of recreating it in the laboratory, which may reach one million pounds per tooth, with the price varying from one region to another.

Every dentist sets a different price

“I no longer care about my teeth, no matter how painful they feel, because I am unable to cover the costs requested by the doctor,” says Shadia al-Aboud, from the village of al-Naima, east of Daraa city, summarizing the suffering that accompanies her with her toothache, as she cannot go to the dentist every time she feels pain because of the “exorbitant” bill given by the doctor.

About three months ago, al-Aboud went to one of the doctors in her neighborhood to treat one of her teeth, only to be surprised by the cost, which reached about 100,000 pounds, she told Enab Baladi.

Every time you go to the dentist, you find new prices, and the doctor’s only justification is the rise in the dollar, she added.

Alternative solutions

Al-Aboud said that dental treatment has become available only to those who are financially able in light of the difficult economic and living conditions.

She has now refused to go to the dentist due to the high cost, saying, “I content myself with rinsing the mouth with water and salt or taking painkillers to relieve the pain.”

For his part, Bassam al-Kour moved between several dentists in the hope that the prices would be commensurate with his monthly income. With each visit, he asks the dentist about the reasons for the rise in costs in such an exaggerated manner, to which he receives the answer that it was due to the high prices of materials, which in turn were affected by the dollar trading rate. ($1=13,750 SYP)

Al-Kour, who owns a small grocery store in a neighborhood in the city of Daraa, told Enab Baladi that going to the doctor has become a “major concern” due to the prices of consultations that exceed the people’s means.

He believes that the majority of skilled dentists have migrated outside the southern governorate, and those who have recently graduated or who take advantage of the people’s need for a dentist remain, raising prices in a way that suits them, in addition to the lack of oversight over dental clinics.

A month ago, al-Kour went to install a dental prosthesis for one of his sons in order to correct speech and vowel problems. He was surprised by the cost, which reached about 300,000 pounds.

Al-Kour said that he could not ask his children to bear the pain, and he must go to the doctor whenever someone from his family suffers from toothache.

Trading rate controls

The rise and fall in the prices of medical materials is linked to fluctuations in the dollar because raw materials are imported, in addition to the rise in the prices of manufacturing equipment and wages, according to what dentist Hisham Mahameed told Enab Baladi, adding that there is difficulty in securing therapeutic, dental and aesthetic materials.

Mahameed stated that there is a conflict between doctors and the dental union, “as they set prices without taking into account the shortage of imported materials for treatment,” noting that their work has declined in recent years due to the inability of families to pay the costs of treatment.

The doctor mentioned that among the imported materials used in dental treatment are expensive fillings, and there are four types of fillings: platinum, glass, porcelain, and gold, all of which are used in the event of tooth decay to preserve the shape of the tooth and restore broken teeth.

Arsenic is an imported substance that kills tooth nerves, in addition to the materials manufactured for dental measuring paste. The prices of all these materials vary with the price of the dollar, according to Mahameed.

The price of the tooth varies depending on the material it is made of, as the price of a porcelain tooth ranges between 300,000 and 320,000 pounds per tooth, and the crown with cosmetic zircon material ranges from 400,000 to 600,000 pounds. As for implants, the cost of one tooth may reach 2.5 million pounds. These prices vary from one region to another.

The cost of treating the dental nerve reached 200,000 pounds, the extraction cost 70,000 pounds, and the cost of cleaning the teeth amounted to approximately 70,000 pounds.

There is no specific price for each treatment because it is affected by several factors, according to Mahameed. “Even the location of the clinic, whether in the city or the countryside, affects the prices.”

The Syrian pound’s value against the US dollar declined to an all-time low of 15,000 pounds to the dollar in August. At the start of the Syrian revolution in 2011, the dollar was trading at 47 pounds, according to The AP.

Not covered by insurance

Tayseer al-Falouji, an employee at the Water Corporation in the morning and an accountant in a sweet shop in the evening, explained in his interview with Enab Baladi that his salary from both jobs does not exceed 400,000 pounds per month, and it does not cover the costs of repairing a single tooth.

The Health Fund affiliated with the Water Directorate considers dental treatment to be a cosmetic treatment that the state does not reimburse the employee for. “When a member of my family experiences any toothache, my expatriate brother helps me with the treatment expenses,” al-Falouji told Enab Baladi.

Several governorates and regions under the regime’s control are witnessing a wave of protests and criticism sparked by the deteriorating living and economic reality, especially after raising workers’ wages by 100% and raising fuel prices at the same time, which also led to an increase in the prices of most goods.

Syria ranked third in the world with an inflation rate of 238% on an annual basis, after Zimbabwe and Venezuela.

The new figure for the inflation rate, issued on August 10, came according to Hanke’s Inflation Dashboard in many countries according to specific criteria, without relying on government statistics.

According to its standards, the dashboard shows an increase in the inflation rate in Syria over a period of seven months at a rate of 100%, as it recorded on March 23, 111%, and Syria ranked fourth in the world after Venezuela, Zimbabwe, and Lebanon.

According to the data, the last official update of the inflation rate in Syria was in September 2019, and it then reached 34.50% on an annual basis.

According to the exceptional Kassioun Index of the People’s Will Party, the cost of living in Syria rose by 58.3% from the beginning of last July until the second half of last August.

The average cost of living for a Syrian family of five was 10.3 million pounds, and the minimum wage for a worker was about 185,000 pounds, equivalent to $12.6 per month.


Enab Baladi’s correspondent in Daraa, Sarah al-Ahmad, contributed to this report.

 

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