It takes a village: Working with Marginalised Communities

As a dental student I understand the impact poor oral health can have on a person’s general health. However, many people may believe themselves to be healthy while in reality they are neglecting their oral health which can have significant impacts on their overall health. Informing communities, especially disadvantaged or marginalised ones gives them the capacity to be in control of all aspects of their health. Throughout my degree I have been in contact with some of these communities, working with them and giving them the required skills. While most people could appreciate the need for good oral hygiene from a young age many would not know the potential detriments of poor oral hygiene of an expectant mother. As part of a group I have presented an oral health presentation to expecting parents in an antenatal class informing them of links with gum disease and pre term babies, the importance of primary (baby) teeth and that decay is transmissible. This also allowed the opportunity to work in collaboration with the nurses to regularly include oral health information within their classes. Another important time for intervention is when adult teeth are starting to erupt to try and intercept and change any detrimental habits. Having weekly visits to a low socioeconomic primary school with a high indigenous population provided this opportunity for intervention. Providing these children with toothbrushes and subsequently teaching them tooth brushing, diet etc was an extremely positive experience seeing change each week in their dental knowledge. The university clinic provides another platform to inform patients and give them the capacity to change poor habits. The clinic aims to provide care to rural patients that otherwise may go without. Having lived my live in a rural town I can appreciate the need for health professionals to work not only together but to work with communities giving them the capacity to better their own life and health.