I was disappointed to see conservatives online attacking the young woman who recently wrote about improving dental care in our community [“Push for More Equitable Dental Care,” Aug. 23, Xpress].
Conservatives, as usual, played “blame the victim” with our poorer neighbors who need dental care. Conservative posters blamed our area’s poor record of oral health on poor diets and lack of dental visits. Instead of giving any thought as to why our poorer neighbors don’t see a dentist or eat healthier, they attacked a high school student over “social justice.”
Thanks to corporate greed and this state’s failure to expand Medicaid, many families can’t afford dental care. Even if these folks have insurance, who knows if they have time to see a dentist? Too many of our neighbors are working multiple jobs, often times with erratic schedules that are constantly changing.
What about our neighbors’ dietary habits? While it’s true that diets high in sugar negatively impact oral health, did the conservatives consider why poor folks eat diets high in sugar? Sugar is found in the cheapest foods and some “healthy” food staples, such as bread (as high fructose corn syrup).
Some of our poorest neighbors live in “food deserts,” areas that lack nearby grocery stores or healthy food options. And let’s not forget the role the food industry plays, where marketing campaigns are designed to sell us unhealthy foods and “flavor chemists” engineer tastes to drive repeat purchases.
Conservatives’ deflection to “personal responsibility” is a cop-out that hides their lack of solutions to this issue. Calling poor people “irresponsible” is a lazy alternative to offering any realistic fixes for the systemic issues surrounding poverty and its consequences, including poor oral health. Perhaps these people should spend less time reciting talking points and more time thinking about people other than themselves.
— Mike Huttman