Often when we seek dental care, we want to know that our providers understand who we are and our dental needs. Having diverse dental personnel does not mean that every patient needs to see a dentist that’s just like him or her. It’s about cultural competence and having awareness and ability of providers to respond to the needs of patients whose cultures and values may be very different from their own. Often when patients don’t see people like them, it can cause a disconnect and obstruct the overall process. And when their providers have little understanding of the issues they face, they may feel excluded or unable to get the care they desire. Realizing the change in demographics of the patient base brings awareness to the challenges and opportunities of the Dental field. For example, if someone who is a part of a minority group that is underrepresented and has an interest in a career like dentistry, they can help contribute to a future where all patients receive the same quality of care and understanding.
On our Dental Up Podcast, we were able to discuss the importance of diversity in dentistry and the value giving back to the community. This month here at Keating Dental Lab, we had the honor of having Dr. Felicia Fontenot, DDS the first Mescalero Apache Dentist as a Guest on our Dental Up Podcast. This podcast was extra special because the month of November is also Native American Indian Heritage month. Dr. Fontenot stopped by to share her experience of being a Native American Indian Woman in an industry that often lacks diversity. She spoke about what motivated her to pursue a career in dentistry, how she is applying her public health skills to create a wide-scale oral healthcare prevention program for native communities, and the idea of cultural competency and how crucial it is when thinking about entering a career in the medical/ dental industry.
The increasing diversity of the population, together with the importance of cultural beliefs and behaviors that affect health outcomes, will require ways to enhance provider-patient communications and oral health awareness. Being able to work with people from different backgrounds, makes it more likely that you’ll be able to understand them and therefore becoming a competent practitioner. That’s why it is necessary, no matter what industry you’re working in that you learn how to understand and interact with people from cultures and backgrounds other than your own, will not only increase the awareness of your business but also the quality of the experience.