August 9, 2018 (Second Wave Media) – This article is part of State of Health, a new series examining health disparities, how they affect Michigan’s children and seniors, and the innovative solutions being developed to address them. It is made possible with funding from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.
Julie needed dental care to get her customer service job at Home Depot back.
Home Depot employees greet customers with “Can I help you find something?” But without front teeth, Julie was unable to say “find” clearly and kept substituting other words. Finally, she was demoted to the store room, where she had no contact with customers and got paid less per hour.
When she tried on her dentures for the first time, she said, “Can I help you find something?” and burst into a huge smile. Julie got her customer service job back.
Julie’s story, as shared by the Michigan Oral Health Coalition (MOHC), is not the only one of its kind. MOHC reports that dental care access is “limited or nonexistent” for nearly one million Michigan residents.
According to the 2020 Michigan State Oral Health Plan (2020 Oral Health Plan), prepared by MOHC and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, low socioeconomic status is a key factor in that disparity in care. Two populations that are currently experiencing significant impacts are children and seniors. But a variety of organizations across the state are working to connect people like Julie to oral care they otherwise might never get, and they’re innovating to continue improving oral health access in the future.