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An America without dental health

My dentures - my treasure
My dentures - my treasure
Catherine Hill

Human teeth are personal treasures. They can only be partially insured, with high deductibles. Medicare and Medicaid won’t pay if you have a dental problem. Dental problems can affect your whole life, but the dentistry our grandparents could afford is now the province of the very rich. Middle class folks can manage with dental clinic chains that have their own financing systems, but increasing numbers of cash-strapped people have to rely on Remote Area Medical Clinics.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe renewed his pitch for expanding health care to the poor Friday by touring a field hospital set up at a county fairgrounds, where people had camped out for days for the chance to see a dentist or doctor.

McAuliffe flew to the Remote Area Medical expedition in far southwest Virginia, where the line for free dental and medical care was 1,500 long by 4 a.m. Friday, when organizers started turning people away.

“That just breaks your heart,” said McAuliffe (D), standing in a horse barn that served as a makeshift doctor’s office, with bedsheets strung up between examination tables to provide a measure of privacy.

God bless Governor Terry McAuliffe! His Virginia legislature is against him, but still he works to highlight his people’s plight and comes in person to comfort them. In this horse barn clinic, 18-year-olds have all their teeth extracted at once because they’ve never had dental care. People ask to have healthy teeth removed because they associate teeth with pain. About 700 people enter a denture lottery in which a lucky 46 will get new dentures so they can eat ordinary food!

Yes, I understand about teeth and pain. My own teeth started abscessing when I was 14 because of my sinus problems. I’ve had fillings and extractions galore. A year ago, one of my four remaining teeth broke off, and the wonderful folks at Castle Dental pulled it and made the new lower partial plate the same day. – I’m lucky; I can afford the minimal dental care needed at my age.

I also know the difference between dentures and real teeth. Real teeth bite down on food better than dentures, and dentures require expenditure on denture adhesive. You also may have to withdraw to ‘fix’ your teeth a couple of times a day. My mother and hers went for years without wearing their dentures and apparently ate satisfactorily, but that is a learned skill. YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE TO LIVE WITHOUT TEETH JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE POOR.

Our entire health care system is built on profit – not the old-fashioned profit that means you earn more than your expenses – but profit to investors who insist on healthy quarterly dividends. These are the same folks who have sent our jobs overseas to make themselves more money. They have left us with barely the means to buy food, and it certainly doesn’t bother them to leave us without teeth to enjoy it.