The week began and ended with me shadowing at the dental clinic all day. I was really happy to arrange, in conjunction with my DukeEngage “Encuentros de la Frontera” mentors, this shadowing experience because the clinic is a community health center that accepts people from all socioeconomic strata with diverse health conditions. People can qualify for reduced health fees and even free dental services. As a result, there are a lot of patients who have never in their life had a dentist or a doctor evaluate their health status.
While in the clinic, I was able to see a lot of dental procedures, and at the same time I learned a lot about the purpose of doing every single little thing they do. For instance, one of the dental hygienists told me that taking x-rays of the teeth and the surrounding bone not only gives the dentist information about the approximate age, teeth wear/personal habits, and oral hygiene. Often, it can also help the dentist identify early health conditions that the patient might not yet know like discovering that a patient is suffering from osteopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis. Since dentists are sometimes the first health professionals that the patient has ever met, this is important because dentist can make a referral to a doctor (in this case, a physician at the same community clinic) that can perform a more precise screening and thus treat the health condition at an earlier stage. This not only saves money to the
During the middle of the week, I had the opportunity to talk to several people from BorderLinks and the surrounding area in