Starting a new job during a global pandemic was strange to say the least. I joined the team at Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation last year and hit the ground running. This is an amazing team, and I’m proud of the way we were able to support our communities most affected by COVID-19 through the 2020 Responsive Community Relief Fund.
Over the last eight years, I traveled around the state working in rural communities. It’s strange to be working remotely; I miss seeing my friends and colleagues who are spread out across this beautiful state. A few of the things I miss the most are the smiles and hugs. Smiles connect us and signal happiness. They are a huge part of how I connect.
As a child of immigrants, connection is important to me. Most of my family lives far away, and I didn’t always feel like I fit in. When I was 4, I traveled to a small island in Greece to meet my grandparents for the first time. We didn’t speak the same language, but I knew immediately that they were delighted to see us. Their giant smiles said it all. I don’t remember much about that trip, but I do remember my Papou (grandfather) letting me stand on his feet as he walked me around the house. I adored him and followed him everywhere he went. I watched him work in the garden, and I distinctly remember his smile when he picked a pomegranate and let me try it. You can imagine my surprise that night when I brushed my teeth and he popped his teeth out, chomped them at me and dropped them in a glass of water. His dentures were fascinating to me. I think it was the first time I really paid attention to teeth.
Oral health is more than healthy teeth
Over the last few months, as I have spent hours learning and studying all things dental, it’s clear to me that oral health is so much more than just our smiles. It’s our health, our confidence, the thing that makes us feel connected to those we love. It can also be painful and even deadly without proper care. We can be judged by our teeth; we can feel immense shame and can avoid smiling or laughing. With the pandemic comes masks. I hate wearing a mask, but it hasn’t been lost on me that for some it might actually be an equalizer. My mom told me that before my Papou got his dentures, he rarely smiled. Those dentures gave him a new sense of confidence. I wonder what it would have been like if he had good oral health care all along? It’s surprising that there are still parts of Colorado with limited oral health care access, similar to my Papou on a remote Greek island. According to the Colorado Health Access Survey, in 2019, more than 25% of Colorado residents had not seen a dentist in more than a year. That’s a quarter of our state. We can do better!
Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation helping local communities
With 2020 behind us, I’m hopeful for a quick distribution of the vaccine, for people to get back to work, and for us to shed our masks and freely laugh and hug the ones we love. But most of all, I’m excited to work to help people in every part of our state improve their access to oral health care.