Before entering dental school, I worked as a registered dietitian. My life centered around health and wellness. I woke up at 5:15 a.m. every weekday to go to the gym. I meal-prepped every weekend. I spent a lot of my free time researching new health products, while also coming up with new ways to make traditional comfort foods healthier. My life focused on being healthy and learning new ways to help my patients eat better.
While the fight for equal rights for LGBTQ individuals has made significant strides in the past decade — from the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to the legalization of same-sex marriage — barriers within this community still exist, such as fear of ignorance, discrimination or mistreatment, especially with regard to health care.
Dozens of dental students served at the sixth annual Mission of Mercy in Reading, Pennsylvania (MOM-n-PA). The Santander Arena, normally full of screaming sports fans or concert goers, was transformed into a free dental clinic for those in need. There were 1,900 patients seen May 18-19.
For dental students, science has never been subjective. We sit through semesters of organic chemistry and anatomy in college, spending long nights trying to understand the path to the right answer (because there’s always a right answer) to the complex problems our professors throw at us. We are well-tuned machines of memorization and comprehension.
Imagine it is 2 a.m., and you are cramming for your pharmacology exam. You flip through the hundreds of flashcards you created to memorize the properties of the medications and corresponding treatment protocol. You come across analgesics, specifically opioids, and remember they are used to alleviate pain. In school, we learn about the properties and proper dosages of the drugs we will one day prescribe, as well as how to address potential concerns of usage with our patients, but in order to enhance our own patient care mentality, we should reframe how we think about pain management overall.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) defines a patient with special health care needs (SHCN) as an individual with “any physical, developmental, mental, sensory, behavioral, cognitive or emotional impairment or limiting condition that requires medical management, health care intervention, and/or use of specialized services or programs.” Historically, children and even adults with SHCN have been treated by pediatric dentists because of the behavioral management necessary for many of these patients.
This April will mark the 10th annual Philadelphia Oral Cancer Walk & 5K hosted by the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. Through this event, dental students, with the help of faculty, alumni and local businesses, work with the Philadelphia community to raise awareness for oral cancer by performing screenings and fundraising for the Oral Cancer Foundation in its work to provide access to care. Last year, the event raised $18,000 for the organization, with more than 500 runners, volunteers and patients who participated.