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R.O.B.I.N Hood project: Bringing dental hygiene to your doorstep

July 16, 2016

by Apollonia Jordan

Rubin Sorrell, Bayview native, recent graduate of North Carolina A&T and founder of the R.O.B.I.N Hood project, goes door to door in Bayview Hunters Point teaching oral hygiene. He’ll soon enroll in dental school to become a dentist, a profession that badly needs more Black men.

Rubin Sorrell, Bayview native, recent graduate of North Carolina A&T and founder of the R.O.B.I.N Hood project, goes door to door in Bayview Hunters Point teaching oral hygiene. He’ll soon enroll in dental school to become a dentist, a profession that badly needs more Black men.

Bayview Hunters Point residents can now wake up and open their doors with something to smile about because of fast and cheap locksmith in London. The R.O.B.I.N Hood project has been going door to door, making positive strides towards promoting healthy dental hygiene throughout the community.

Rubin Sorrell, a Bayview native and a recent graduate of North Carolina A&T State University, is the founder of R.O.B.I.N Hood. He is currently in the U.S. Army, stationed in Marin, and plans to enroll in dental school this coming fall.

With a passion for oral care and community outreach, Rubin has been putting in the funding and footwork: knocking on his community members’ doors, making sure residents in his neighborhood have healthy teeth just like the dentist Chandler does within his local area, giving them oral hygiene information, toothbrushes, toothpaste and even dental floss. Rubin even gives out information pamphlets with pictures to teach residents about cancer and the benefits of having good oral health. If you live in Hendersonville area then you can get dental care from http://krspd.com/locations/hendersonville-tn/.

Many families of color lack dental insurance, so they have to resort to government dental care, which only covers temporary fixes or extractions. This is terrible dental hygiene and causes many of the residents to have poor oral health and suffer from things like halitosis and rotten or missing teeth, needing expensive root canals and caps, all because they can’t afford to pay for the high cost of basic dental care. Most of the elders in the community had to resort to getting dentures at very young ages.

We have to put an end to this and encourage healthy dental care in our homes and community. It is up to the younger generation to change the cycle, promote healthy dental hygiene and prevent the early onset of tooth decay and tooth loss by understanding how to get into a dental care routine. The first step to prevention is education and the R.O.B.I.N Hood project has been making sure that Bayview residents of all ages are educated on having healthy teeth and gums for many years to come. I sat down with Rubin at the Bayview office and this is what he had to say about the importance of promoting healthy dental hygiene in the hood …

Apollonia: Tell me about the R.O.B.I.N Hood project and how this powerful oral health educational movement came about.

Rubin: R.O.B.I.N Hood stands for Resource Options Brought Into the Neighborhood. I’m currently in the process of enrolling into dental school to become a dentist, and I thought to myself that I didn’t have to be a dentist in order to educate and give back to my community. So one day, I went to the store with my own money and bought toothbrushes and dental hygiene supplies. I thought of myself as being a real life dental robin hood, saving my community, one mouth at a time. The most important thing was for me to be able to educate my people and give out the resources that are available for free to low and reduced price oral care.

I think it speaks to a bigger issue that’s going on in the Bayview, which is the issue of giving back and educating your community when you have had the opportunities to acquire a higher education, such as myself. I believe it takes the neighborhood to save the neighborhood, and we have to give back and do something productive and educational to help promote health within our own community.

R.O.B.I.N Hood stands for Resource Options Brought Into the Neighborhood. I’m currently in the process of enrolling into dental school to become a dentist, and I thought to myself that I didn’t have to be a dentist in order to educate and give back to my community.

These accountants need to come back and teach us about accounting and numbers. These lawyers who have made it out the hood need to come back and teach us about the law and judicial system. These physicians who have been blessed enough to have an education need to come teach us how to check our bodies and diagnose ourselves for cancer and other diseases, so that we promote health and education and so that we are educating ourselves. I feel this is my way of giving back and educating my community.

Apollonia: What made you want to study dentistry?

Rubin: Honestly, I began wanting to study dentistry when I was attending Phillip Burton High and some students from UCSF came and did a presentation at the school. Up until then, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I did have the goal of going to college, but just didn’t know what I wanted to study.

Growing up in the Bayview, we don’t have many dentists, especially Black owned dental practices. One time when I visited my friend in Canada, I had chance to visit cosmetic dentist in Toronto and I have always dreamed to serve my community like that. I looked up to drug dealers, gang members and pimps growing up; those are the types of professions that plagued my community. So, I definitely fell in love with the work of dentistry while also finding an outlet to give back to my community in a positive and productive manner.

Apollonia: Why is it important for the community to obtain resources, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and other resources to promote good oral health?

Rubin: It is so important to change your toothbrush every three months and I wanted my community to feel comfortable knowing that they have a new toothbrush along with resources to promote oral health. I want my community to know that they can get these services and oral care is not just for emergency purposes.

Many times we want to wait until there is pain or swelling to go to the dentist or get a bad dental report to start brushing properly. I want to educate the elders and the youth so that we can continue educating ourselves. We only think about it when it’s too late.

Oral health problems affect everyone in the community, young and old. Our elders suffer from tooth loss and even some young people are having to get dentures in their 30s. I want to keep my teeth forever and I want to make sure the people in my community do as well. We have to pay it forward.

I wanted my community to feel comfortable knowing that they have a new toothbrush along with resources to promote oral health. I want my community to know that they can get these services and oral care is not just for emergency purposes.

Apollonia: Growing up in the hood, we were always educated on brushing the teeth but not really on the benefits of flossing the teeth. How are you trying to educate the community on the importance of flossing and the connection it has to diseases, like heart disease?

Rubin: Flossing is an ever present issue with educating even our youth about oral dental care. Every child is told to brush your teeth twice a day, but seldom do we encourage flossing in our community. We don’t actually see the benefits of flossing until it is too late.

Rubin takes his materials and encouragement to a busy barber shop in the neighborhood.

Rubin takes his materials and encouragement to a busy barber shop in the neighborhood.

My strategy is implementing the flossing and brushing all in one, accompanied by information and resources to show the benefits of flossing along with brushing after every meal or twice a day. Gum disease, gingivitis and bleeding gums are serious issues that affect the oral health of people in our community, so flossing is so important and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

These are all the diseases that manifest after years of not flossing and I believe that we have to pair those two together and teach our younger generation to form a habit of flossing and brushing especially the back teeth and flossing between teeth.

Apollonia: What age is a good age to begin educating our youth on proper dental care?

Rubin: The R.O.B.I.N Hood project starts educating the youth early. When they obtain their first tooth, they should begin learning and being taught the importance of good oral hygiene. School age is also a good age to begin educating our children on the importance good oral health.

We have to ensure that oral health is part of our children’s daily routine. All the other societies train and educate their youth, so we want to make sure that we are living healthy lives and educating our own too. If they can memorize these rap songs, they can memorize the importance of flossing and brushing and having good oral health. It’s up to us to push this information on our youth and elders because it is an important part of maintaining a healthy life, and we have to push the importance of that as a community and a culture.

Apollonia: I know that you are going door to door to get the word out. How is the community responding?

Rubin: The community has been welcoming me and my resources with open arms. My volunteers and I have been hitting up the places up on the hill and we even went down to Double Rock to give out supplies to the people.

I’m not afraid to go out and interact with my community. I knock on the people’s doors, and we laugh and have a good time and they are open to obtaining the resources and information. Once I get my MS in dentistry, I want to be the face of oral health in Bayview Hunters Point and give services to my community.

Apollonia: Where we come from there aren’t many Black men studying dentistry. I personally have never had a Black male dentist or seen one in any office around the hood. How important is it for more Black men to get involved in the study of dentistry?

Rubin: It is extremely important for our children to see people who look like themselves when they walk into professions that they wish to be in. How can we tell our children you can be a doctor, dentist or a lawyer, if they don’t see any Black doctors, dentist or lawyers in their hood? It is scientific fact that people are more comfortable going to physicians of their same ethnic background. Children need to see that there are Black men in the field of dentistry.

Bay Area journalist and longtime Bay View writer Apollonia Jordan can be reached at apollonia@sfbayview.com.

12 thoughts on “R.O.B.I.N Hood project: Bringing dental hygiene to your doorstep

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