Hispanics just don’t care about oral health care for their kids or themselves? Now don’t jump down my throat just yet. I’m just stating what some people may assume to be true. But is this statement completely unfounded? I wish I could say yes.
Sadly, according to the Hispanic Dental Association (HDA) survey and sponsored by Crest and Oral-B, 65% of U.S. Hispanics have experienced at least one oral health issue within the past year. Maybe that doesn’t sound like that big of a deal but when you compare that to only 53% of the general population experiencing the same thing that’s a HUGE deal. Especially if that may not even be including our Hispanic children. And trust me when I say I know from experience, as a child that had parents that didn’t quite emphasize the importance of oral care and as a mom of a toddler who is going through his own dental issues, that there is definitely a need within the Hispanic community to change those statistics.
Mind you there are definitely barriers that prevent Hispanics from getting proper attention to their oral care needs like lack of knowledge, tools, or resources, high cost or lack of dental coverage, and of course language/cultural differences. But luckily I’m not alone in wanting to remove those barriers so that our Hispanic community can thrive in the way we know it can.
In my family we brushed our teeth after every meal but when it came to our complete overall oral care I think the ball was dropped just a little. I can’t speak for my parents but I’m going to assume it was a language barrier in the beginning. And thinking back perhaps a bit of a cultural difference as well. My mom never really trusted doctors/dentists so thinking back to my childhood I think she’d sooner call up my abuelita – grandmother in Peru and ask for an herbal or Peruvian remedy rather than take us to the doctor or the dentist.
I’m not saying she was entirely off-base on some things but it makes me wonder about the rest. Did she suffer like most immigrants because she didn’t have the necessary knowledge of oral health care available to her in Spanish or was there no Spanish dentist that could ease her mind and educate her? Now, as a mom, these are things that I should be asking my mother. No sense in repeating history when I can learn from it, right?
Interestingly enough my tio – uncle is a dentist in Peru. So luckily when I began to have questions about my son’s oral health I’d ask the pediatrician and dentist but always had my tio to throw in his advice. It came in real handy when at almost 2 years old Shaunsito’s two front teeth began to have problems.
Long story short I visited 3 different dentists with each one giving me their reasons and recommendations. I gave him too much juice – yeah that NEVER happened because I was nursing him. His teeth were like that because of the bottle – once again I nursed him so that was not the issue. And another dentist suggested I was nursing him to sleep. Hmm…that was slightly possible. And my uncle mentioned the possibility that if I took antibiotics when I was pregnant – which I did – that could have contributed to it. They all agreed it was also possible that it was just sucky genetics.
You can see below how his one front tooth looks chipped and the two surrounding ones are not developing properly. My son is a beautiful child but I feel terribly guilty for his teeth not looking 100% perfect. Not to mention he’s going to have his mommy’s sharp canine teeth – poor thing. I had to have my own fangs filed down!
Why am I telling you all this?
Look at it this way. What if I didn’t speak English? What if I wasn’t comfortable or didn’t have the financial means to visit more than one dentist? I was already completely frustrated and needed some serious guidance as to what to do next about my son’s teeth. I just can’t imagine not knowing the language that my dentist spoke or not being able to have choices. It’s hard enough being a parent but how can you protect your child, educate them, and give them the right tools to stay healthy when you don’t have it available yourself? It’s time to change that.
I’m asking you to not only be responsible for your children’s oral health care but also for your own. Our children watch everything we do so we need to be setting the example. I know there are days when you are super tired from work or running errands and think maybe I’ll just skip that teeth cleaning, it’s not terribly important. Or brushing, flossing, rinsing, blah blah blah after every meal? There isn’t enough time in the day! Well let me tell you this much. Your kids are watching you. And if they aren’t make it so that they are and you can keep each other accountable. I know when I get lazy Shaunsito tells me “Brush teeth mommy, brush teeth!” Yup, little man keeps me in check.
Now ask yourself if you are willing to let your family, your children continue to be just another statistic. I’m Hispanic and I DO care about my kid’s oral health care and I will make sure to continue educating myself about it and sharing the information with other Hispanics. It really is up to us to make a difference.
Share with us here how you will choose to enlighten the Hispanic community about what it takes to have a beautiful, healthy smile.
Go on mami, speak up!
For more information about the survey please feel free to visit: www.crestcomplete.com/study