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Betel addicts suffer from severe short and longer term negative health impacts as a result of their chewing. In the short term chewers suffer from severe sensitivity and inflammation of the mouth. Chewers report being unable to eat sour or spicy foods. Betel chewing causes intense teeth staining, which chewers report makes it harder to find jobs, or meet partners. Longer term, 1-2% of chewers per year develop oral sub mucous fibrosis, a pre cancerous condition that causes severely restricted movement of the jaw. 7% of oral sub mucous fibrosis sufferers develop oral cancer per year. Around 95% of oral cancer cases in Myanmar are the direct result of betel chewing, and it is the third highest cancer across the entire population. Betel sellers are often totally reliant upon the sale of betel nut for their income. The betel leaf, a key component of this preparation, is a volatile crop, and sometimes rapidly increases in price diminishing sellers' income.
Our solution is to sell oral care products that minimise the short term impacts of betel chewing, and promote the longer term oral health of chewers. Our products are designed for low income betel chewers, and prices range from US$0.075 to US$0.24 per unit (sufficient for 1 day). To date we have developed and tested a unique chewing gum formula, a mouthwash and toothpaste. We will sell our products at the same shops that sell betel nut, thereby being easily available for even the lowest income betel addicts, and improving the businesses of betel sellers, rather than threatening their livelihoods. In phase 1, our products are designed to reduce the negative impacts of betel chewing, not as addiction cessation therapies. We are working on an addiction cessation therapy as a second phase, and have filed for a patent with our partner at the University of Florida, a world leading addiction expert. Our products are designed to be scaled across the region.