“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

The patient’s eyes darted around the makeshift dental practice in India, pleading for a discount to remove her last decayed tooth.

She was only 35.

I wanted to hand her the US$7 from my pocket but instead I sat there silently listening to the increasingly frantic discussion, watching her do the mental calculus of feeding her family versus the incredible pain she was suffering.

We are fortunate: we think of teeth as simple details of our day. They are nothing more than soldiers standing guard, present in a ready smile, or tools with which to eat. I see them as part of the bigger picture, an effect of the large inequities prevalent globally. Poor oral health can cause quickly spreading illnesses, heart disease, and further world hunger in many nations.

The problems I want to solve are bigger than the millimeters I am trained to alter. I’ve learned that each dilemma should be analyzed by its intricacies. I look to dedicate my life to solving the big problems armed with small tools.

And I will never sit silently again. It is up to us to start bridging these inequities, millimeter by millimeter.

— Ashiana Jivraj