The Children's Dental Health Project's blog
A toothache inspired her to become a dentist
A recent column by the Orange County Register's Bill Johnson tells the poignant story of a California pediatric dentist named Geraldine Ruiz. Dr. Ruiz recently completed her training as a pediatric dentist, and Johnson shares the events that helped inspire the 29-year-old to choose her profession.
Ruiz was born in El Salvador and emigrated to California with her family roughly 20 years ago. Although both of her parents worked, Ruiz' family lived in poverty.
A toothache when she was 14 changed everything for her. She remembers walking the hallways at Westminster High School for weeks, the pain in a rear molar nearly beyond comprehension.
Ruiz was sure the pain would go away, but, of course, it did not.
In her family, she said, the idea of going to a dentist simply did not exist. Certainly her parents never had dental insurance. Government assistance for the poor? “No. To my parents, it was you go to work, and afford what you can afford.”
Ruiz eventually needed a root canal, and it took her family a while to pay the cost for this expensive procedure. Once the procedure was perfomed, and her pain went away, Ruiz found that the experience had left an indelible mark on her attitudes. She didn't want anyone to endure that kind of pain simply because they were not educated about the steps they could take to prevent tooth decay. As a high school student, she volunteered her time at a nonprofit dental clinic, teaching disadvantaged families about oral health and nutritional habits.
Today, she is a dentist. Ruiz told Johnson:
"It's very hard to get people to change their family's habits. Yes, kids will cry to get the candy, juice or the soda. And parents will give in. I'm working as hard as I can to change that.”
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