When you hear about a book named "My Reflections On Dentistry in Belize" - if you're not a dentist you might think it's not all that interesting.

But, Dr. Chris Bennett's first book is surprising for its sweep and the social gems he turns up as he tells about his nearly 40 years in Belize;s dental profession.

He launched the book today and told us that Dental Health has significantly improved since he first returned to Belize in 1973:..

Dr. Chris Bennett, Dentist
"It's a reflection, so it's really highlighting the experiences of providing dental care, the experiences of the attitude of the population to dental disease and dental treatment and people who have been around know that when I came back to Belize in 1973, we started the whole program of turning the attitude around, where people were demanding extractions. And so people who have been around from then would be interesting in seeing the book and see exactly how the changes went about, and they know there have been changes because we have published surveys locally and internationally to show the attitude towards dental disease and dental treatment has turned around."

"The book highlights what happens when we change attitudes, so again you read the book and you say oh that is a way to change attitude. So you can apply that to your way of life or to any program. And so basically what happened is that when I came to Belize in 1973, there was a great demand for taking out teeth and people were taking out teeth like having teeth was getting out of style. In fact a person actually told me, if you want to be a good dentist in Belize you have to be able to take out teeth make a nice denture and have a little piece of gold filling in the front."

"If you look at the surveys when we first did the survey in Belmopan and the latest we did in 1989, you see a drastic difference in the amount of care, let's say the 12 year old. We trend from about 10 to now about 3 decay teeth, so all these results encourage our personnel in the dental department to continue with the program."

No dental survey has been conducted since 1989. Dr. Bennett's book is available for 35 dollars.

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A thoughtful account of history of dental hygiene in Belize

You don’t have to brush your teeth, just the ones you want to keep. Catchy phrases are one of several methods used to inspire proper dental hygiene. Doctor Chris Bennett has a unique perspective of dental care in Belize because when he finished his studies in the 1970s, the profession was in the early stages. He has mapped and written a thorough history of dental care that touches on culture, race, and also breastfeeding in Belize. Though retired, his colleagues Dr. Raphael Samos, Senior Dental Surgeon and Doctor John Waight made presentations on his behalf at the presentation. News Five Jose Sanchez attended the launch of Bennett’s “My Reflections of Dentistry in Belize”.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

“My Reflections on Dentistry in Belize” is the latest work of nonfiction to be added to Belize’s growing list of publications. The author Doctor Chris Bennet has served as a Dental Surgeon, Former Chief Dental Officer, Senior Dental Surgeon. Essentially it’s a historical tale of Belize’s teeth.

Dr. Chris Bennett, Author

Chris Bennett

“Feeling that I must document what dentistry was like and the improvements we’ve seen over the years. Since I returned to Belize in 1973—this is like some thirty-eight years now—and I’ve seen the improvement and this is what encourages us with our dental program.”

Jose Sanchez

“It is not a topic that may grab some people, but you do touch on issues that I did not know exist; for example when you talk about dental disease in Belize due to ethnic differences. What are you referring with that?”

Dr. Chris Bennett

“The thing is, it has been showed through research that certain different races have a certain type of dental conditions. For example it has shown that the East Indians tend to have more gum problems. The people of African descent would tend to have stronger jawbones and so this is what is indicated in the book. That it is good that Belize has this multi-ethnic group so I was able to document what I read in international research is in fact here in Belize.”

Peter Allen

The main address was given by Doctor Peter Allen, C.E.O. of the Ministry of Health.

Dr. Peter Allen, C.E.O., Ministry of Health

“Before Chris had returned home from his studies in London, there was essentially no dental services in Belize. By the time he passed on the baton of Senior Dental Surgeon, he had created an effective national oral health system founded on an evidence-based approach long before the term became popular. This book tells the story of how Chris championed the achievement of important, statistically significant improvements in the oral health of all Belizeans in a relatively short time. The publication of this book is really only the latest in a remarkable lifetime of achievements. Only Chris could have achieved this. Nobody else has the wisdom, the passion, the experience, the patriotism and the pure guts to have spent a lifetime creating an admirable national oral health system—where there was none before and in some extremely trying circumstances—and then to write about it so that others may learn from his remarkable experiences.”

Jose Sanchez

“You discussed topics as the surveys and the dentistry and the Mennonites. What have you seen? What have you documented?”

Dr. Chris Bennett

“Well when I first came back in 1973, taking out teeth was the style—it was almost like having your own teeth was getting out of style. So right away I decided that I need to have a plan of action to try and turn this around. And so I devised a national oral health plan and implemented it with the dental department and the surveys were showing that in fact we do have an improvement. But one of the things I want to emphasize is that even though the book is talking about reflections of dentistry, I am convinced that the book would be of interest to everybody for the simple reason that the book shows us of what can be achieve if we have a concerted effort; it shows us what can be achieve if we can change attitude. And so all this type of things would be an example for anybody in their regular way of life. And that’s why I felt that it is not only for dentists and historians but for everybody.”

Jose Sanchez

“Would it be safe to say then that rather than extracting the tooth, we will be able to extract the truth about dentistry?”

Dr. Chris Bennett

“Well in fact the book is documenting that change in attitude and we are seeking much less dental decay around for most people—the surveys are showing that. Once attitude change, then things have to turn around.”

“My Reflections of Dentistry in Belize” is available at a bookstore near you. Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

The invocation for the ceremony was given by Bishop Dorick Wright of the Roman Catholic Church. Former Governor General Dame Minita Gordon also received her copy of the book after the book launch.

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