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Jobs where teeth are your CV

 Youths seeking to join the armed forces are undertaken through various checks. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

You will never secure jobs in the military, the police service or in hospitality industry if you spot dental deformities, including broken, discoloured, crooked or chipped teeth. Teeth are the first thing recruiters for careers in the disciplined forces check, and if the teeth are coloured, then you are categorised alongside those with syphilis and gonorrhoea, diabetes and high blood pressure, who are basically not eligible.

It is also not a laughing matter if you have brown teeth during an interview for a job as a waiting staff or receptionist in a hotel. Other jobs where teeth matter includes acting, modelling, air stewards and hostesses, anchoring TV broadcasts and other careers pegged on ‘customer facing’. Think bank tellers and salespeople, PR and advertising.  

There are many aesthetic and medical reasons for checking the condition of a potential employee’s dental formula. Never mind coloured teeth could be purely an accident of birth in a geographical location where water containing high levels of fluoride, leads to dental fluorosis.

This, in turn, results in not only job losses but also potential sweethearts having little to smile about.

Coloured teeth is thus an environmental problem that morphs into a tough molar in other spheres of life, denting self-esteems.

Indeed, if you were brought up in areas where water has high fluoride, like around like Nakuru, Gilgil, Kericho, Naivasha and parts of Nyandarua, your dreams of joining a hotel chain or the military might face problems.

Gabriel Oyugi, for instance, studied hotel management and tourism, but could not secure any job with hotels in Nakuru.  

Mr Oyugi, who hailed from Pangani Estate in the outskirts of Nakuru town, once attended an interview and “the hotel owner was glued to my teeth. He said he would contact me, but it has been 10 years now,” recalls Oyugi, who later learnt from a friend at the hotel that “people with brown teeth would dent its reputation.”

Oyugi, now 40 and a father of two, sought to whiten his brown teeth, but was discouraged by a friend who developed sensitive teeth after cleaning. He now hawks onions in Nakuru. “I am happy that my clients buy my produce without looking into my dental formula,” Oyugi told My Health.

Like many residents of Nakuru, Oyugi’s teeth were affected by water with high fluoride concentration while growing up. The fluoride also messes up gums.

It is not just men whose careers and love lives have been messed with by dental fluorosis. Anne Serulo, 24, also could not secure employment in Milimani Estate, Nakuru. “I am still pained. Even after all credentials, I did not secure the job because of my teeth. It was so unfair. But I had to accept,” said Anne, adding that denying someone employment because of discoloured teeth lowered self-esteem.

Besides job discrimination over teeth in the hospitality industry, Esther Mwangi, the CEO of Executive Edge Consulting, singles out the disciplined forces like the police and military as job categories where having brown teeth is like a capital offense.

One Kenyan youth took his frustrations to social media and discussed discoloured teeth during military recruitment. He wondered: “What do my teeth have to do with how I serve my country? I am a patriotic Kenyan, with an interest in protecting the country at heart. Or am I expected to bite people?”

According to Ms Mwangi, employers should interrogate causes of dental issues and explain why they cannot be picked, even though for hotels, front office staffers like receptionists might get clients thinking the establishment has water with fluoride or might associate coloured teeth with poor hygiene.

She says eliminating job seekers on grounds of their teeth is uncommon, as “I have not witnessed bias nor any form of discrimination in government positions, apart from the military, and the police.”

But with the disciplined forces, one’s teeth must be as firm as the barracks. Never mind dental formula is not part of basic recruitment, according to George Musamali, a security consultant and former General Service Unit (GSU) trainer.

Musamali told My Health that 50,000 hopefuls with qualifications turn up for police recruitment when only 4,700 are needed and thus checking teeth is one way of elimination to meet set numbers. 

Basic requirements for the disciplined forces include right body weight and robust physical and medical fitness, explained Musamali, adding that recruits should also not have underlying health complications like diabetes, hypertension or Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) like syphilis and gonorrhea- as they can infect others in the camp. Women recruits should not be pregnant.

Running is also not included as a basic requirement and is also another form of eliminating the unfit. But a medic with the disciplined forces clarified that most recruits are not above 24 years and teeth problems are a pointer to other medical conditions ruling them out.

Musamali adds that the culture of checking a recruit’s teeth began during the colonial era when documentation of dental formula was used in identifying a missing officer or one who died in battle. It was also used during compensation when an officer was  injured in a war.

Where students drop out of school over coloured teeth

For donkey years, residents of Naivasha and Gilgil towns have suffered from high levels of water fluoride which accounts for their coloured and chipped teeth and weak bone formations.

Three out of ten residents have chipped or coloured teeth. While many politicians have promised to fix that not so small matter of high fluoride in the water, nothing much has happened and now a group of visiting US doctors termed the water used in both towns as unfit for even animal consumption: it has fluoride levels of 10mg/litre against the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend standards of 1mg/litre.

Just why about 50 percent of locals suffer from dental fluorosis- a condition caused by too much fluoride during tooth development.

Fluorosis is irreversible and leads to permanent damage of the teeth and the formation of bones.

Statistics from Naivasha District hospital reveal that 40 percent of dental patients suffer from fluorosis and rickets according to superintendent- in-charge Dr Angeline Ithondeka. She adds that Naivasha ha one of the highest cases of rickets (at least 10 cases a month) and stunted growths due to fluorisis.

Dr Ndunu Chege, a dentist, explains that though fluoride is good for teeth and bone formation, high levels of it cause teeth deformities in Naivasha where borehole water used does not meet WHO standards of fluoride levels. Dr Chege adds there are cases of school drop outs from endless teasing.

Former Naivasha MP John Mututho pointed out a 2016 report on fluoride and intelligence, which revealed that fluoride affects the IQ by impairing learning and memory capacity.

Jane Wambui, a parent, says most of them have no choice but to use borehole water as high cost of living does not allow most to afford fluoride-free water.

Four years ago, the government announced plans of tapping fluoride-free water from the Aberdare forest and stored at Malewa Dam in Kinangop Nyandarua County and which was to be constructed from tens of river tributaries from the forest.

The multi-billion dam would have solved the fluoride crisis in Naivasha and Gilgil, but alas! flower farms and environmentalists opposed the idea arguing the dam would spell doom for the troubled Lake Naivasha which is the mainstay of tens of flower farms, fishermen and eco-tour operators.

A report dubbed ‘Lake Naivasha fact Sheet’ projects that the lake could die by 2031 if no proper planning was done.

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