For three years I lived in excruciating dental pain. You might think I’m exaggerating, but at worst the pain was excruciating and at best the pain was barely tolerable. As you can imagine, I was a joy to be around.
What happened to get me to that place? A whole lot of nothing, a whole lot of neglect.
I have very few memories of going to the dentist as a child. I can only be certain I went twice because that is all I can remember clearly. The first time I remember going, we were told I needed braces. Finances made braces non-viable. The second time I remember going to the dentist I was 14. I still needed braces, but somehow I had managed to stay cavity-free.
Then nothing. I made it through high school and a good chunk of college without visiting the dentist.
When I did finally make it to visit a dentist it was because I was experiencing sweet sensitivity and I knew something was wrong. The only way I could afford to go to the dentist was by crossing the border and seeing a dentist in Tijuana. Things were taken care of and then again years passed until my oral health could no longer be ignored because the pain was intolerable.
Why didn’t I visit the dentist regularly as a child? I was raised by a single Latina mother on a very limited income. We did not have dental insurance and dental care is expensive. It’s not that my mother didn’t want to take care of my oral health, it’s that for the most part we couldn’t afford it and I guess she thought that as long as we brushed regularly we would be fine.
This is why the Crest and Oral-B sponsored Hispanic Dental Association (HDA) survey results do not surprise me.
Barriers that Latinos face when it comes to oral health include language and cultural differences, knowledge gaps, and lack of access to affordable oral care or insurance.
I also learned that aside from dentists and physicians Latinos rely on parents as a major source of oral health education and information.
My oral health continues to be a concern for me, but I can’t go back in time and change the past. All I can do is proceed. I do not want my daughters to ever have to go through the kind of dental pain that I’ve experienced. I want them to grow up knowing that their oral health is a part of their health in general.
I started brushing my daughters’ teeth even before they had teeth. One of them still doesn’t have teeth, but she enjoys a good gum brushing.
They will also grow up with regular visits to the dentist even though their Mami didn’t. It is unfortunate that even with insurance oral health care is still prohibitively expensive, but it ends up being even more expensive to take care of neglect.
Did you grow up going to the dentist every 6 months?