The Nina Turner Show: Hygiene as a Human Right with Dr. Javad Aghaloo
At the 2017 People’s Summit, rural dentist Javad Aghaloo speaks about the need to include dental hygiene in calls for Medicare for All
NINA TURNER: Well, welcome Dr. Javad Aghaloo to the Nina Turner Show on the Real News Network.
DR. JAVAD AGHALOO: Excellent, thank you very much. I’m very excited to be here.
NINA TURNER: I’m very excited. So we’re here together at the People’s Summit, which is how I met you, and I was just so inspired just by the brief conversation that you and Gabriela and I had about the great work that you both are doing. The name of your organization is Sage, and it is a non profit organization that provides free dental care to a primarily poor … To a rural poor populations that borders Arizona and right on the tip, 60 miles I think from the Arizona border.
DR. JAVAD AGHALOO: Right, yes.
NINA TURNER: And right there on the tip of Mexico.
DR. JAVAD AGHALOO: Yes.
NINA TURNER: What motivates you to do something like that?
DR. JAVAD AGHALOO: Well, I saw the area. It’s very medically and dentally depressed, highly Hispanic, low income, a lot of children with no dental care, and a lot of medical and dental needs, and I couldn’t take the fact that a lot of them didn’t have any dental insurance coverage.
NINA TURNER: How was this brought to your attention? I mean you’re a practicing dentist. What, you just woke up? An epiphany. You heard the voice of God. I mean talk to us about why … What happened? What motivated you?
DR. JAVAD AGHALOO: That’s a great question. What I saw in need was I saw that the medical, which is Medicaid, it covers some dental procedures, and I take that at my office because I want to provide as many services to as many people, but the medical simply wasn’t covering very many services at all.
NINA TURNER: Yeah.
DR. JAVAD AGHALOO: And the ones that it did cover, they had to pay a lot out of pocket. The patients had to pay money out of pocket that they simply didn’t have, and so they either had to wait for a very, very long time through an approval and appeal process or they simply didn’t get the treatment and they had to leave with pain, infections, and so-forth.
NINA TURNER: And why is dental care, because in a lot of, even the medical, even the health care reforms of this country, we don’t actually talk a lot about dental care. What does the new science say about why dentistry, or taking care of our teeth, is very much relevant to high blood pressure, diabetes, all of that? Why does that matter?
DR. JAVAD AGHALOO: Again, very relevant question, Nina. If you have infection and disease in your mouth, obviously you have infection and disease in the rest of your body. The mouth is a window to the rest of the body, and so the same plaque, the same actual bacteria that’s in your mouth when you brush your teeth every day is the same plaque that clogs your arteries and cause heart attacks and strokes, so if the vessel goes to your heart it would cause a heart attack. If it goes to your brain, it would cause a stroke. It also makes diabetes much worse. If you’re diabetic you’re much more likely to have gum disease, and now there’s many studies that show if you have gum disease you’re more likely to have diabetes. So just huge massive effects.
NINA TURNER: And why do you think, especially where the majority of Americans, no matter what they label themselves right now, a lot of the polling says that people in this country really want to see Medicare for all? Dentistry is kind of being left out of that. What would you say as a doctor, as a dentist, Dr. Jay? What would you say to policy makers as to why making sure that dentistry is embedded into everything that we do to lift up the health care options of the people, of Americans?
DR. JAVAD AGHALOO: It absolutely has to be included in Medicare for all. It has to be because the mouth is connected to the rest of the body, and like we said, anything going on in your mouth, you see it in the rest of your body. Just having gum disease, simple gum disease, it causes inflammation throughout your body. So like you said, increased blood pressure, coronary artery disease, forms of cancer, have been linked to plaque in your mouth, so I don’t know why they haven’t considered it, but it sure needs to be considered.
NINA TURNER: And all of this that you’re talking about is preventable.
DR. JAVAD AGHALOO: Absolutely.
NINA TURNER: So we can really invest that money on the front end to make sure that people are safer, or healthier I should say, on the back end, which would actually save us lots of money as a nation.
DR. JAVAD AGHALOO: Absolutely. One of the things that I go out and do and my staff is we provide a lot of education to not only children in schools, but a lot of the parents. A lot of the parents aren’t educated on this subject. They just think that everything’s fine, and if their child has a toothache they just bring him for that one emergency. Another thing that we’re doing with Sage is we’re not just providing emergency care. We don’t just want people to come in if they have a big swollen infection or if they have a toothache. We want them to get all their treatment done and keep on coming in for preventive care, like cleanings and checkups and exams. Things like that.
NINA TURNER: And we should get cleanings every six months?
DR. JAVAD AGHALOO: Every six months. Absolutely.
NINA TURNER: You know Doc, I’m just so fascinated by this because we are in this moment that the nation, our nation is really laser focused on health care and health care reform, and to me this is the moment and to have someone like you that is dedicating both your professional life but that you also, that this is a moral obligation and you’re serving a purely poor Hispanic, maybe not exclusively but the majority of the people that you’re serving right now are poor Hispanic families who are just trying to live a good life every single day and you’re helping to bring life to them through dentistry.
DR. JAVAD AGHALOO: I’m trying to, yes.
NINA TURNER: Dr. Jay, you are all that. You really, really are and we need more like you. So this is a non-profit.
DR. JAVAD AGHALOO: Yes.
NINA TURNER: So you raise money to be able provide these services.
DR. JAVAD AGHALOO: I feel so lucky to have staff and volunteers that have my same vision. We actually came to it together, so a lot of it is volunteer. We have a lot of … We’ve written grants to the state and federal. We’ve done fundraisers and trying to get donations, but it’s very difficult so up until now its been self funded but I have a lot of, luckily, have so many volunteers and so many people.
NINA TURNER: So you are giving your money, your time, and your expertise along with other folks in the industry, so whether it’s the dental technician, you know, everybody up the chain because a dentist, you need your person by your side, the dental hygienist.
DR. JAVAD AGHALOO: Absolutely, yes.
NINA TURNER: But you have motivated and inspired people to give up their time to be able to provide these services to our sisters and brothers in need.
DR. JAVAD AGHALOO: Yes, yes we have.
NINA TURNER: Dr. Jay, in every sense of the word, I mean you are an angel. You really, really are.
So Dr. Jay, the fact that you are really using your time, your talent, and the time and the talent of other people to provide a service to communities in need is really a big deal, and we need more people to do things like that, to give up themselves. Is that one of the reasons why you’re at the People’s Summit?
DR. JAVAD AGHALOO: That’s absolutely one of the reasons. I try to spread the education and the knowledge and what we’re doing, and I tell a lot of other providers that if all of us can come together and at least do something rather than just a few of us doing a lot. I’m giving everything in this. I’m working seven days a week because I’m seeing a lot of these patients on the weekends, so I’m trying to meet other people that are like minded and I’m trying to spread the fact that we need to have dental care included in medicare for all and just go from there.
NINA TURNER: You’re really just building a community of people who are willing to do just what you’re doing.
DR. JAVAD AGHALOO: Absolutely.
NINA TURNER: Dr. Javad Aghaloo, you are a godsend right here on earth. Thank you so much for joining us on the Nina Turner Show on the Real News, and thank you all for listening to us. Hopefully your hearts and minds will be touched that you can use your gift and your abilities and your skills to make this world a better place in the space where you are. I am Nina Turner, and you have been watching the Nina Turner Show on the Real News Network.