The dentist. Eek. Just the thought of it instills sheer terror in me. The sound of dental tools scraping the plaque off my teeth is like fingernails running down a chalkboard. It literally sends chills down my spine.
Needless to say, visiting the dentist is one of my least favorite chores. But it’s something I take for granted. I have the luxury of pulling out my insurance card to receive regular dental cleanings and keep my teeth healthy. I don’t think twice about it.
But I should. Because so many others around the world aren’t as fortunate as I am. Some families literally live each and every day uncertain of what the next will bring. Will they be able to find any work for the day? Will they earn enough to buy food to feed their children? Can they afford to take their daughter to the doctor if she gets sick?
Families facing extreme poverty can’t afford to purchase toothbrushes and toothpaste. They might even struggle to access clean running water needed to rinse out their mouths. They often don’t understand the importance of keeping their teeth clean because they’ve never had the luxury of visiting a dentist. Some children have never even been to a doctor.
Something as small as a toothbrush can make a big impact on a child’s health.
Children International recognizes the impact of oral hygiene on health, and we provide dental care to a number of impoverished children in our program. Our community centers with dental clinics are kid-friendly environments, with age-appropriate educational materials. We help make it possible for children to receive hygiene supplies like toothbrushes. And we teach families how to brush their teeth.
Given my own fear of the dentist, I’m always surprised to meet sponsored children who actually look forward to their dental checkups. Even if they need six fillings or extractions, they appreciate the care and attention they receive. They know if it weren’t for Children International and their sponsors, their teeth might go unbrushed and their toothaches untreated.
Visiting the dentist might not be quite as good as opening a gift come Christmas morning. But for impoverished children, it’s definitely more of a treat than a chore. Now if only I could learn to appreciate the dentist as much as they do….
Posted on behalf of Erin Anderson. Photo by Joel Abelinde of our Manila, Philippines, agency.