“…I haven’t been to the dentist in 12 years and not because I don’t want to go… It’s simply because I haven’t been able to afford to go.”
Alumnus, Henry Viscardi School At The Viscardi Center
Recently, I found a company that provides a primary care physician who actually comes to my house. It has been a godsend. Before, I had to contend with all kinds of issues at the doctor’s office. There was a 45 minute travel time. Then, I could be waiting 30 minutes before I saw anyone. And I would hope to see the person that I’ve seen before, but instead it would be a new medical student each time. So, I would have to tell my story – the details of my disability – over and over again. If my regular physician would pop his head in for even five minutes, that was impressive.
With the home visits, physically, there isn’t any travel time, or adjusting to having to sit in another seat for a procedure, or trying to get through a door. My doctor is always the same person. She knows everything that is going on, has my charts and is ready as soon as she comes through the front door. Should I need any kind of help, she gets back to me within a day, or immediately if it’s an emergency. Also, it’s more of a personal connection because I’m comfortable in my own house.
This company really does bring everything to you. For example, I recently needed an EKG done, and they brought the machine to my house. They would do the same if it was an X-ray. And for blood work, once they come and take your blood, they bring it to the lab. Due to all these benefits, I now see the doctor much more often. In fact, I’ve seen her about five times in the past three months, more than I used to see my past primary physician. This is great for my overall health.
However, I haven’t been to the dentist in 12 years. And not because I don’t want to go. I really would like to go and get a deep cleaning. I’ve noticed that I have had sore gums that bleed from time to time. Sometimes they’re so sore, it would be difficult for me to even open my mouth for three or four days at a time. I’m pretty sure that’s a sign of something that needs to be checked out. And it’s not because I don’t understand the importance of dental care. My mother, aunts and grandmother – all nurses – instilled in me from an early age that in order to stay healthy, oral health is a big part of it. It’s simply because I haven’t been able to afford to go. Certain things that would need to be done, like really extensive dental work, would definitely not be covered by insurance. Even just a simple cleaning costs quite a bit of money. For people on fixed incomes, it may not be affordable.
Further, it’s rare to find a dentist that actually is able to handle people with disabilities and has the right equipment for people with disabilities. It is a challenge to locate them, even on the Internet where you can find basically anything! You have to try to find one that is supposedly accessible, and then be prepared when you call to ask, ‘Are your doorways wide enough? Do you have a ramp to get into your office? Is your work done inside of a wheelchair?’ that the answer may be ‘No.’ These things that would make treatment so much more comfortable are very difficult to find.
If there were more dentists with experience in meeting the needs of the disabilities community, and if dental care was more affordable, then many more of us would actually be able to have dental work done. And if we were to find the right dentist, we would definitely spread the word amongst our friends and networks, so we could all benefit.