If you've recently returned to the U.S. from an overseas assignment as a Peace Corps volunteer, you may still be catching up on all the tasks and paperwork you missed while you were away. Although seeking dental treatment shortly after your return may have fallen low on your list of priorities, having a checkup (and any necessary repair work performed) when you get back is crucial to safeguarding your oral health. Being stationed overseas for any length of time has the potential to impact your teeth and gums if preventive measures aren't taken. Read on to learn more about some of the effects a lengthy Peace Corps deployment may have on your dental health, as well as what you can do to help pay for the treatment you need on a public servant's salary.
What types of dental issues may you be facing after an extended period of time overseas?
Even if you keep up your regular brushing and flossing habits while serving as a PC volunteer, there are some additional challenges thrown in the mix simply due to being stationed outside the U.S. Many areas -- particularly those where potable water is already scarce or expensive -- don't put fluoride in their water supply to reduce the risk of cavities. Because you can't see, smell, or taste fluoride, it's easy to forget its presence in water; but switching from fluoridated to unfluoridated water for drinking and brushing can compromise the ability of your tooth enamel to self-repair small holes or areas of decay.
Certain illnesses that tend to be prevalent in countries close to the Equator can also affect your dental health. Diseases like typhoid (which causes nausea, sweating, and high fever) and dengue fever (which can cause an ultra-high fever and rash) can lead to inflammation throughout the body, including inflammation of your gums. As your gum tissue expands and contracts as the result of an inflammatory illness, it can begin to lose its ability to securely hold your teeth in place. After your symptoms subside, you could notice small pockets between your gums and teeth or even a loose tooth or two.
Seeking dental care quickly after your return from the Peace Corps can help correct any damage to your teeth and gums, as well as stop any damage that has already occurred from spreading and further harming your teeth.
How can you pay for needed dental treatment after returning from the Peace Corps?
Because of the volunteer nature of Peace Corps work, with only a small stipend provided to cover housing and living expenses, many former PC workers may not feel they have the money to invest in extensive dental care and treatment. Fortunately, the Peace Corps itself offers comprehensive health and dental benefits to its workers, so the treatment you seek stateside after your return should be covered by your plan.
In addition, repair of any dental injuries or other damage to your teeth that took place during an identifiable, Peace Corps-related event -- for example, if you were kicked by a livestock animal as part of your volunteer work -- should be covered by workers' compensation insurance, even after your service to the Peace Corps has ended. You may need to report this incident to your supervisor or other contact so that it can be documented as a work-related injury, allowing you to forward to the Peace Corps any medical or dental bills you may receive.
With these options available to you, there's no excuse to not visit a dentist for a checkup and treatment plan after you've gotten settled from your move back to the States. For more information, talk to a professional, such as those at TLC Dental Center.