Letter: Push for more equitable dental care

Graphic by Lori Deaton

As a staff member at Youth Empowered Solutions, or YES!, I have become critically aware of oral health as a severe issue in North Carolina. In July, the N.C. Oral Health Collaborative released the Portrait of Oral Health in North Carolina, which provides a solid overview of North Carolina’s current oral health status by focusing on the social, economic and political determinants that prevent many people from obtaining proper oral health care.

North Carolina was the first state to implement an oral health program in 1960 and has since made tremendous progress in delivering care. However, North Carolina ranks 47th nationally in dentist-to-population ratio, so there is clearly still work to be done. Additionally, living in a state known for its beauty, tourism and Southern-family feel, I find it astonishing that we are continually seeing statistics like “three counties in N.C. don’t even have dentists” or “in comparison to privately insured, children with public health insurance are less likely to have had a dental visit in the past 12 months.”

In many ways, good oral health is determined by how much individuals are able to pay, their geographic location and their ethnicity.

Being at YES!, I have become aware of these things. But what about everyone else who doesn’t work specifically around social justice issues? Proper oral health for all shouldn’t be seen as something only in a perfect world. We should fight for it, for our neighbors, our elderly, our youth, for everyone who thinks one’s health is important.

According to the Portrait of Oral Health, there are opportunities to improve access dental care and improve the policies that are contributing to oral health inequalities. I urge you read the Portrait of Oral Health, call your legislators and the N.C. Board of Dentistry to push for a more equitable dental care system.

— Crystal Guevara-Alday
High school senior
Youth staff, YES! (Youth Empowered Solutions)


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17 thoughts on “Letter: Push for more equitable dental care

  1. The Real World

    You are putting the cart in front of the horse. The #1 factor in determining oral health is how well people decide to take care of their teeth. The second is what foods they choose to consume.

    Which means most people have a distinct control over what happens to their teeth!

    Both sugar and acid are terrible for teeth and the American diet is full of both! If people reduce consumption of those and take good, regular care of their teeth that would have vastly more impact than adding a few more dentists to the state.

    Crystal quote – “We should fight for it”. Yes the “social justice” types are constantly talking about fighting. Fight, fight, fight. They are always looking for an opponent, a bad guy, instead of trying to TEACH people how to better care for themselves and solve their own issues. Teaching is better than fighting, Crystal, and will produce far better results.

    Please read this: http://drgershberg.com/top-10-causes-tooth-decay/

    • Phillip Williams

      Yes – the best way to “fight for it” is to take care of your teeth and also stay well-hydrated (preferably with water). General oral health can be addressed by 10-15 minutes a day spent brushing & flossing. Exceptions are injuries, diseases that affect the teeth and/or the gums & inside of the mouth, orthodontic issues & improper growth/alignment of teeth, TMJ, or problems caused by wisdom teeth. Unbelievable how much dental service costs now – I still have a bill from a wisdom tooth extraction done in 1987 – with gas, it was $45 and the insurance paid half of that!

    • Peter Robbins

      Did you read your own link, Real World? The author recommends a visit to the dentist every six months. Now how is a body supposed to do that if she can’t afford a dentist or one is not available in her county? These are the kind of problems that this letter-writer — with admirable clarify and graceful expression — is addressing. We need more kids like her.

    • Peter Robbins

      Make that “clarity.” It’s been a while since I was in school myself.

  2. Troubled Traveller

    Thank you, Crystal, for the information you shared and for your attention and work to the betterment of our society. I would offer you encouragement in your efforts and I applaud your genuine compassion. Remain strong and focused and do not allow yourself to be dissuaded by those you will encounter that are narrow-minded and whose main focus is their own wallet. It is abundantly clear that within your heart, The Golden Rule has found a safe haven. You are already compassionately developed far beyond others that are on a similar path by being engaged in improving society with your involvement in YES! I’m so thankful that in our youth, we see and hear of folks like Crystal that inspire hope for a brighter future and that know in their hearts that things can, and will improve. Sunshine on your beautiful face and wind on your back; YES! Keep up the good work, Crystal!! And Thank You!

  3. The Real World

    I do hope that Crystal is reading….and learning. The 2 commenters just above are both patronizing and insulting you.

    Troubled and bsummers suggest that you need not think, consider, question, listen or learn further about topics that interest you. What does that tell you? Troubled deems to speak for the motives of people he/she has never met, so what does that tell you?

    They clearly do not want your thinking and understanding to expand because, currently, they line up with their views (regarding people as victims). Now, there is an obvious motive. Those who encourage you to not consider beyond what you know as a 17/18 year old are people to run away from…fast. They do not have your best interests in mind.

    Helping people succeed in life rather than trying to continually find someone to fight will produce far better results for all involved. I am confident you will eventually see that.

      • The Real World

        And this is a routine example of what I point out. Some people have an intense need to live in conflict. Where it doesn’t even exist, like a thread about teeth, they attempt to create it.

        Notice no intent to resolve or understand. No, just to insult, demean and stir conflict. That also is a choice. Best to avoid those who choose to live like that.

    • Troubled Traveller

      Under no circumstances, at no time, in no possible way does this person (“The Real World”) have ANY hope of comprehending or interpreting my statement. That you think you can take my words and think that they “suggest” anything other than what they say is an attempt to deprive me of my freedom of speech. It is narrow-minded perspectives such as demonstrated by “The Real World” that have created, and will continue to attempt to perpetuate the kinds of problems that our society currently faces. I find it incredibly ironic that you don’t seem able to idenify the hypocrisy in your statements. “Real World” – (don’t you wish?!?); you don’t and can’t speak for me or others, nor accurately interpret and comment on the social dynamics that surround you. I wish you, “Real World”, all the best and I yearn for your improved enlightenment. In the meantime, the very least you could do would be to discontinue your futile efforts to paint the world in such disharmonious colors. We are here together on the planet and in this town to love and support each other and to seek positive solutions to our mutual concerns. Until you have something positive and constructive to say, you are wasting your breath and your data access with me.

    • The Real World

      The dentist lobby doesn’t really surprise me after learning about the power of the veterinary lobby a few years back. (And, by the way, there are few laws on the books to protect animals from harm by vets. It is a serious problem and many take advantage of the lack of laws to push the envelope really far. Stories abound about this. Humans have a lot of protective law with regards to medical care.)

      From your article link, a comment by a dentist:
      7/11/2017 10:36 PM EDT
      I am a dentist that treats low income patients and those primarily on medicaid. The problem is not us greedy dentists trying to rip people’s pockets away. The problem is the lack of the patient’s dental education, sugar everywhere, and a patient valuing their mouth.

      Everyday our hygienists teach patients how to brush and floss. Everyday we have videos of oral hygiene instructions playing on the screens. Everyday I see a patient who comes in for a recall appointment still not brushing and flossing. Everyday I get a patient disappointed that medicaid does not cover every treatment possible. I am doing dentures on more 20-30 year olds than I would like. Patients do not value their teeth. They value getting a new pair of shoes instead of paying for a filling. They smoke like a freight train, not all, but a lot of them. Yes, there are patients that truly need care and that is why I do what I do. But there are more entitled patients that I would like to see.

      Also the patients that go to the ER for toothaches…. The majority of them have medicaid. I have insurance patients that pay premiums for dental insurance but only come in for cleanings and don’t come back to pay their $30 copay for a filling… But then a year later, needs a root canal…. And now we’re the bad guys. Parents get mad at me when I tell them that their child needs a root canal on a tooth medicaid doesn’t cover… But they haven’t brought their child to the dentist in three years. People don’t value their teeth until it’s too late. And then they get mad that it costs so much. Overhead is super high. Dental insurance don’t want to pay their part. Patients don’t want to pay at all. If your dentist gives you a quote of $30000 go somewhere else and get a second opinion.

      (I added the bolded for emphasis)

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