Oral health disparities are common globally. In the United States, inadequate access to both preventive and acute oral care services has resulted in oral health inequalities. Ethnic and racial minorities are most affected regardless of gender, and socioeconomic status. Untreated cases of tooth decay among Mexican Americans and non-Hispanic Blacks is twice that of their non-Hispanic White counterparts (Behar-Horenstein et al., 2017). Moreover, the majority of the Asian communities have the highest self-reported cases of periodontal disease. Gum disease is common among individuals more than 65 years. Currently, the major challenge for dentists is to decrease the prevalence of oral diseases among ethnic and racial minority groups. This paper is a reflection of the strategies I will apply in the future to alleviate oral health care disparities among vulnerable groups.
I gained several insights into my personal characteristics during the clinical rotation. My experiences in the oral care department revealed some aspects of professional responsibilities, prejudices, and motivations to be anticipated in the future. It became evident that my motivation for choosing dentistry was based on alleviating pain and promoting good oral health to everyone. Unfortunately, prejudice against some ethnic communities is common in our hospitals. Occasionally, stereotyping some patients influenced my decision on how to handle them. For example, I had a preconceived belief that patients from poor backgrounds were unable to fund some dental procedures. This notion prevented me from doing my best to improve patient oral health. However, I later regretted not treating the patient well. For this reason, I vowed to always provide ethical and quality care to all populations in the future.
Oral health disparities are attributed to inequalities in health insurance. Access to dental services is currently mediated through expensive dental insurance and poorly funded public facilities. Although the oral health care fund is efficient in mitigating the negative effects of oral diseases, few individuals are eligible for it. The National Dental Practice-Based Research Networks (PBRN) is doing great work in promoting oral health through collegiality and education. This network will give me a platform to undertake beneficial research activities aimed at improving universal dental care. Therefore, I will endeavor to join the group.
In the future, I will influence policy makers to make laws that solve health disparities by taking up a leadership role in the government. Since oral health has not been given priority by the American health system, I will advocate for the inclusion of dental care in the Affordable Care Act. In addition, I will persuade the government to start and fund projects that will aid in ameliorating oral health disparities. Consequently, money will be invested in the development of cheaper preventive technologies for oral diseases among the minority groups.
Inability to access better health care has aggravated the oral health care disparities among the minority ethnic and racial groups. Low education and income have also worsened this problem. I will reduce unevenness in oral health by introducing a community dental outreach program. This program will reach out to the minority population and provide dental services and education. Poor oral hygiene aggravates dental disease, so regular flossing to eradicate plaques and tooth brushing using fluoridated toothpaste will be encouraged. People also will be persuaded to avoid smoking and to take food with low sugar levels to prevent dental carriers.
Behar-Horenstein, L. S., Warren, R. C., Dodd, V. J., & Catalanotto, F. A. (2017). Addressing oral health disparities via educational foci on cultural competence. American Journal of Public Health, 107(S1), S18-S23.