I came in thinking I would be able to match each of the clients to a “main dentist.” That sounds great, doesn’t it? I personally think that all of the clients that the agency serves deserve the care that they need. I wanted for each client to at least receive a comprehensive exam and cleaning.
We often underestimate the importance of our oral health and visiting the dentist twice a year. Medical doctors are often seen as the more important ones, where dentists may sometimes be seen as not as qualified as medical doctors. It’s very evident in our society where dental and medical insurances are separate. Not one insurance covers both services.
However, as days and weeks passed, I was informed that it is not needed that each client has a main dentist. I could not wrap my head around that statement. My supervisor believes that a dentist is only needed when there is an emergency. “But what about the cleaning? What about the exam to determine if the client needs care?” I kept questioning to myself. For the weeks to come, I will definitely try to get this message across: “A comprehensive exam is needed at the very beginning that you start any procedure with a dentist. You cannot wait until you have unbearable pain that you go and seek a dentist. One should see a dentist once the service is available to you. Cleanings are needed every six months. Preventative care is as important as any other treatments like extractions and root canals. Preventative care is what prevents one from undergoing those painful experiences that everyone is scared of.” I hope that through this message, the agency aims to provide each client with the dental care that is needed and readily available.
However, I’ve learned that this social justice service of providing equal care to all may not seem as easy as it sounds. We took into consideration the cost and eligibility of receiving care. Medicaid has its limits, and so do the pockets of the clients. Transportation is also a huge burden for the clients. With an English language barrier, it is often difficult for the clients to explore what the land of their new life has to offer. Some of these clients live frugal lifestyles where for parents, spending $12 for school bus transportation for their children to attend school is hard to do. Considering all these factors of limited language skills, transportation, and money, it is hard for one to hope for these clients to access the different services that society can offer, including dental care. Thus, closing any gaps, whether for health care or education, is very difficult to achieve unless all of these factors and limitations are wiped out.
So far, I’ve been able to help with data entry into the server provided by the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, review clients’ files so that the agency passes the monitoring sessions, contact many insurance companies and dental clinics, and develop a curriculum based on oral health techniques and resources. The work I have done is very diverse in its nature. I have been able to get a taste of the different services offered to the refugees and the inside workings of the agency. Something that I now know that I wish I had known earlier would be the different insurance plans and the benefits that come with each. There are so many different plans, with each having different eligibility requirements and benefits.
For anyone that would like to come and volunteer or intern with the Refugee Services of Texas, I highly recommend and encourage doing so. Interning at the agency has given me different world-views and reality checks. I advise those who are interested to be open-minded and welcoming to all. There is so much to learn here. Be able to understand and withstand any changes to your plan of action.