Neighborcare Workshop Raises Awareness on the Importance of Dental Hygiene
Proper dental hygiene is a good first step to a lifetime of better health. Instruction on proper toothbrushing techniques as well as routine check-ups and cleanings at a dentist’s office are instrumental to achieving good dental health, and are things that are taken for granted by many Americans. However, the recession has placed this basic health need out of reach for most refugee adults. As a way to address the Washington State budget shortfall, the Washington legislature cut adult dental services for all recipients of medical assistance through the state as of January 1, 2011. This cut will have a long-lasting effect on refugee communities; many refugees have never had access to dental care, and only view trips to the dentist to get troublesome teeth pulled as necessary. Because of this budget cut, serious dental problems will likely be ignored or referred to already overburdened community clinics and emergency rooms.
The IRC in Seattle is trying to work with community partners to help educate refugees on preventative health practices as a way to prevent long-term health problems. In April, the IRC in Seattle partnered with Neighborcare Health and Dental Clinic to provide an informative workshop on oral health for newly arrived refugees. Neighborcare has been serving our community for over 40 years and is the largest provider of medical and dental care for low income and uninsured families living in the Seattle area. Two AmeriCorps volunteers from Neighborcare, Emily Johnson and Zara Friedman, visited the IRC’s pre-employment class on April 12th to teach refugees the ABC’s of brushing, flossing, and home dental hygiene. The class learned about the causes of plaque and tartar build-up. The presenters also discussed the kinds of foods and beverages that are especially damaging to your teeth, and stressed that smoking can lead to oral cancer and burn your gums. At the end of the class, the Neighborcare volunteers passed out a home dental kit including a toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss, and encouraged workshop participants to practice what they’d learned at home.
The continuing help of partner organizations like Neighborcare provides refugees with valuable information that can help ease the often challenging transition into life in a new country. Courtney Madsen, the IRC’s Medical Caseworker, knows the importance of workshops like these: “We hear all the time that good dental health is the first step to good overall health. Many refugees have not previously received instruction on dental hygiene, which is a problem now that access to dental care is limited due to budget cuts.”
The IRC is planning to partner with Neighborcare on more health workshops for new refugees later this summer.
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