Another Saturday morning and my to-do list is again bursting with errands and commitments.
As I sit at a stoplight allowing my mind to race, I think “Weekends can be stressful.” Then I pause, thinking about my recent visits to Chaffee County meeting with community members. It was a great opportunity to hear and experience directly from them and with them, the challenges young children, pregnant women and families face when it comes to accessing oral health services in Colorado.
You know what I learned? Here’s what real stress looks like:
Stress is having to call your boss again to tell them that you can’t come into work because you have to drive your child across two mountain passes to see the only dentist that will address their urgent dental pain, which prevents them from being able to learn in school and eat.
Did you know that in 2018 17.5 percent of kindergarten students and 15.2 percent of 3rd grade students had untreated decay? Or that approximately three percent of both age groups had an urgent need for dental treatment?
Stress is being pregnant, having dental pain, and not being able to afford to get treatment or even know if it’s safe to have a dental treatment during pregnancy. Did you know that more than a quarter of all pregnant women in Colorado lacked dental insurance in 2016? Or that 18 percent reported not going to the dentist because they could not afford to go?
Good news is there are organizations throughout Colorado working hard to reduce stress for families every day. The Chaffee County Oral Health Program is partnering with Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation to expand oral health services and screenings to children and pregnant women.
Since providing services such as Cavity Free at Three to children and families attending Head Starts and Early Head Starts, the program has seen a significant decrease in cavities. At one point, they were seeing that one fourth of kindergarten students in one elementary school had urgent decay. Over recent years, as they continued to provide oral health services in this community early and often, this number has reduced to only two students in this same school’s current kindergarten class!
I’ve become increasingly and pointedly aware that our societal systems – and our health care system – is set up for people with privileges like mine to thrive. And others are simply left behind. By highlighting community-based solutions to improve oral health, we’re able to work toward oral health equity while also improving overall health. That makes days a little less stressful.
Senior Program Officer for Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation
To learn more about the foundation’s work to help the people of Colorado achieve their best health and elevate every smile, go to deltadentalcofoundation.org.