When asked how long she’s been a dental hygienist, Amber Lovatos enthusiastically replied, “For eight wonderful years!” But Amber admits that she did not have a passion for dental hygiene before entering the profession. Rather, she became a hygienist out of necessity.
As a first-generation Mexican-American growing up in a low-income home, there was no access to dental care. Amber struggled to speak English and barely graduated from high school. As a teen mom, she suffered from depression. She worked as a dental assistant, but after leaving an abusive marriage, she realized that dental assisting wasn’t enough to provide for her and her two young sons. Amber realized that she needed to get ahead in life, and when her friend Maxine Cordova suggested they both become dental hygienists, it seemed like a path to success.
Although nobody in her family had graduated from college, Amber persevered, and with a burning desire to do more for her children and herself, and a resilience born of adversity, she entered dental hygiene school. It was there that Amber says she “found that dental care was not just for those with resources, but also for people like my family and me. That is when my passion for public health dentistry began.”
Paving the way for her fellow Latinx
As an aspiring dental speaker, Amber did not have a Latino or Latina dental hygienist to look up to. So she decided to pave her own way and started calling herself “the Latina RDH.” Amber saw a need for vocal representation in the dental industry. She states, “We want to provide resources to Latins in dentistry so they can pave their way into the dental space of their dreams. We need Latino representation in dentistry, and we are here to support our amigas and amigos in their sueños.”
Articles by Amber Lovatos
This year has been a year of growth and discovery for Amber. She continues to develop her speaking and embrace her identity. “To my core, I am a Latina, and I am the happiest when I can express that. This year I made it a priority to no longer cover and to stand proud as the Latina RDH. I had the opportunity to provide a course during Hispanic Heritage Month about caring for the Latin community for Crest Oral-B. After this first course, I received inquiries from dental professionals interested in learning Spanish. In a desire to help dental professionals better care for my community, I’m creating videos and posts to assist dental professionals in learning basic dental Spanish.”
Amber and Maxine Cordova, her friend who suggested dental hygiene as a career, are both career-long public health dental hygienists and advocates for access to dental care. In their outreach initiatives, they identified a need for representation in children’s dental books. From this, a book called Smiles Por Vida was created. Amber and Maxine use Smiles Por Vida to fund community outreach initiatives.
Amber has also started a nonprofit called Latin RDH (latinrdh.com), along with cofounders Maxine Cordova, Alicia Lovatos, Miriam Hernandez, Elizabeth Núñez, and Angela Do. Together, they hope to make an impact in their communities through professional development and outreach initiatives. Latin RDH focuses on providing financial support to dental professionals who want to provide care to Latin and Hispanic communities. Their goal is to increase the representation of Latins in all dental spaces. Latin RDH provides professional development resources to help Latins pursue their professional goals.
Amber may have entered the dental hygiene profession simply to provide for her children and herself, but along the way she found a fulfilling career and a calling. “I’ve had a very fulfilling career. I’ve been a high school and dental hygiene educator, speaker, writer, and director of a nonprofit dental clinic. Now I’m starting my nonprofit that combines the things I love—my community and public health dentistry. It is interesting how life turns out. I grew up low-income with no access to dental care, and now I provide care to low-income and uninsured individuals. I am now a business owner, speaker, writer, and advocate for the Latin community. It feels like I was preparing to become this person all along.”
If you are interested in providing care to the Latin and Hispanic communities, or are a Latinx in dental hygiene, Amber encourages you to join Latin RDH. The nonprofit offers grants to anyone interested in providing care to the Latin and Hispanic communities. Amber can be reached at [email protected] or @thelatinardh on Instagram.
Congratulations, Amber Lovatos, and welcome to the RDH Community Connections (RCC) dental hygiene influencer program!