December 12, 2023

Health Food and Beverage icon Healthy Food and Beverage Standards

Jasmine, a first-generation immigrant from the Middle East, was one of the first patients I cared for when I transitioned from private practice to public health dentistry. She had only been in the States for a few years and was raising three children, including a 17-year-old son with developmental delays. She was computer savvy and her ability to navigate complex systems, including medical and dental care, was impressive. When I met Jasmine, it appeared that she had everything under control.

Yet, when she and her children stepped into my dental chair, I found signs of rampant decay and poor oral health. Despite their relatively uneventful medical histories, I noticed some underlying issues that needed attention.

Jasmine’s daughter appeared obese at only 14 years old. Jasmine had expressed that her daughter had been complaining about sporadic dizziness, which she attributed to pubertal changes. As a dentist, I recognized the interconnectedness between oral health and overall well-being. I took her blood pressure, which I was surprised to find was elevated and indicated early stage 1 hypertension.

This was a wake-up call for me. How many cases of childhood hypertension are going unnoticed? And more importantly, how many could be prevented if the underlying issues leading to childhood obesity and unhealthy eating were being addressed more proactively?

I spoke with Jasmine, and it soon became clear to me that her story was more than just a tale of dental struggles or deficient knowledge about healthy food and beverage choices. She understood that what goes in her mouth affects her overall health, but she also pointed out that eating healthy requires time, money, and access to...

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