Using research to collaboratively address barriers to dental care

You read a restaurant review on Yelp. You survey the menu and ask a friend about their favorite dish. You may even ask the waiter for more information about the ingredients. Who would have thought that going out to dinner would require so much research? Informally, we use research to help us make decisions in our daily lives. Formally, research is used to gather information and discover associations between topics. With an interest in learning more about underserved populations, I used research techniques to explore barriers to oral health for Latinos in eastern North Carolina from the perspective of community health workers.

Mental health as a barrier to care

My patient was escorted to our urgent care clinic wearing an ankle monitor. Her chief complaint was that she felt pain around every tooth. When I took a closer look, the source of her pain became apparent. She had a mouth full of non-functional root tips. Almost every root tip showed signs of infection. My patient was from a local drug rehabilitation center, and she was 10 months sober from a heroin addiction. As a result, she wasn’t allowed any prescription narcotics or nitrous oxide, as instructed by her program due to fear of relapse.