I have to go to the dentist. For some, this is as common as getting the oil changed in the car and paying for the yearly tags on the car. It can seem routine and an ordinary annual or bi-annual occurrence, even though some people dread going or at least find it moderately annoying.
Growing up, even though I didn’t like going to the dentist, I found myself there twice a year for cleanings and the occasional cavity work. My parents felt it was an important part of our overall health and wellbeing, and research would support that idea.
There is a documented connection between oral health and physical health. For example, an untreated infected tooth can abscess causing a spread to the brain, resulting in death.
In 2010 the surgeon general delivered a report that highlighted “Oral Health: The Silent Epidemic” and she points out that oral diseases disproportionately affect the disadvantaged … especially children.
While the poverty rate in Rock County is 9.7 percent, the poverty rate for children under the age of 5 in Luverne is 33.4 percent (Minnesota Compass).
In Rock County, with a population of roughly 9,000 people, we have one dentist, not a great ratio.
I realize not everyone relies on this one dentist; however, there are those who are still in need of dental care.
For many in our little corner of the state, getting to a dentist is an expensive and daunting commitment.
For example, let’s take a single mother of three children who works a minimum wage job and has insurance through Minnesota Care (Medicaid) and needs to take her child to the dentist.
Historically, to get to a dentist that accepts Medicaid insurance requires travel, usually a couple of hours away.
So, once you find a dentist to take your child to, you have to take time off work, and if you have a car, spend the day at the dentist.
Currently, Caring Hands Dental from Alexandria comes to Pipestone once a month for cleanings and exams.
However, if you need any work done, then you need to drive to Alexandria to get the work completed. While Alexandria is a great place to visit, it is a 3-plus hour drive from Luverne and depending on how much work needs to be done, could prove to be a long day.
What then is the answer?
There is clearly a need for dental care in our community. Many cannot get to the dentist and the broken tooth or infected tooth perseverates until the person has to go to the emergency room for care because they know that the emergency room will take Medicaid insurance.
Or they do nothing and then the infected tooth abscesses and the infection goes to the brain causing an unnecessary death.
In fact, there was an elderly woman in Luverne that died due to this very issue.
The poverty group Luv1LuvAll has brought an awareness to the poverty issues that surround us and the lack of appropriate dental care for the under- and uninsured is something that affects us locally. There are several families that rely on Minnesota Care for their health and wellbeing.
It affects us economically, and if we care about our neighbors, we need to continue to pursue viable answers.
We meet monthly to discuss the poverty needs of the community. Our next meeting is April 19 at the Prairie Events Center from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Lunch is served following the meeting. If you are interested in coming, please call 507-449-5777 to sign up.