FACT #9

Vermont has been ranked as the nation’s healthiest state since 2008.

Did you know?

Fluoride is a very effective way to prevent cavities.

Water Fluoridation

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Oral Health Facts for Happy Hartford Teeth

FACT #1 Nearly 1 in 5 kids in VT haven’t seen a dentist — even for a checkup— because they can’t afford it. FACT # 2 Fluoride Mouth Rinse Program has been available to Hartford children through schools for over 30 years. FACT # 3 34% of all Vermont children in grades 1-3 have a history of dental decay. FACT #4 Vermont’s School-Linked Tooth Tutor Program connects children to a full range...

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News From Vt. State Dental Society

Thanks to member, Toby Kravitz, DDS, Upper Valley Oral Health Coalition is please to post this release from the Vermont State Dental Society on our website. Subject: The Importance of Oral Health during Pregnancy and Early Childhood   Dear Vermont State Dental Society Members:   Below is the web link to Dr. Steve Arthur's May 24th Vermont Department of Health’s Public Health Grand Rounds presentation, "Two is Too Late", which is about the importance of oral health during pregnancy and early childhood.   It does...

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Fluoridation Update from the ADA

July 16, 2012 The state of fluoridation After 67 years, challenges continue across nation By Stacie Crozier, ADA News staff For 67 years, community water fluoridation has been part of the landscape in the United States public health arena. Hundreds of studies have confirmed its safety and effectiveness in reducing caries rates since 1945, when Grand Rapids, Mich., became the first community to adjust the fluoride levels in its water supply to lower tooth decay rates in children.  According to the latest statistics from...

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PBS – FRONTLINE June 26, 2012

On June 26, 2012, Frontline and the Center for Public Integrity investigates the Dental Care Crisis in the US. "Dental care can be a matter of life or death. Yet more than 100 million Americans either don’t have dental insurance or simply can’t afford to see a dentist. The result? Severe pain, preventable disease, humiliation, bankruptcy and sometimes even death. In Dollars and Dentists, airing Tuesday, June 26, 2012, at 10 P.M ET on PBS (check local listings) a joint investigation by FRONTLINE and the Center...

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Dartmouth Students Simple Design for Big Impact – Improving Oral Health during Pregnancy

This year a group of Dartmouth College undergraduates including Lucas Yamamura, Karl Schutz, Melissa Saphier, Winnie Yoe, Hannah Kim worked with Tom Roberts and Good Beginnings to improve oral health for pregnant mothers.  They are part of the group Design for America (www.designforamerica.com), a national organization from Chicago that has established studios at colleges in the US to use design thinking as a way to solve local social issues.  Lucas and his colleagues learned that...

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Free Dental Care for Adults – May 5, 2012

Free Dental Care. The Vermont State Dental Society is sponsoring  statewide free dental care on May 5, 2012.  Vermont is the first state to offer this event with dentists across the state participating.  Here in the Upper Valley, Drs. Kraitz, Gold and Blicher have reach across the river and enlisted New Hampshire dentists to make this an Upper Valley event.     The participating dentists are Drs. Baker, Blicher, Denk, Gold, Governo, Kravitz, Meyers, Petrescu-Boboc, Santavicca and Willette.  Along with these dentists,...

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A Personal Story: Insurance Issues – Melinda & Dave, Orford

Melinda and Dave live in Orford, New Hampshire and have four children. Dave's job offers dental insurance, but the rates are high. “We do have dental insurance available to us but. . . the family rate is so much higher than the individual rate, that unless you are going to have a lot of work done it doesn't make sense financially to have the insurance for your kids. It's cheaper to pay for expensive stuff out of pocket than to pay the higher rate for kids to be on our plan. . . We also have a dentist who we love that is not...

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A Personal Story: NH Medicaid is Crippling – Jason, Lebanon

Jason is 34, with four children, and lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Jason's daughter was born with Spina Bifida, which means, among other things, that her teeth are softer than most people's and they are more susceptible to decay. At four or five years old she needed some extensive work done. Jason explains: "We had a dentist in Claremont, and with a busy schedule (my wife and I both work) and we have four kids we're chasing around and bringing back and forth to different appointments. One of the appointments slipped our mind....

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A Personal Story: No Need to Pull Teeth – Nathan, Woodstock

Nathan lives in Woodstock, Vermont. This is his story: Twenty-five years ago I went to a local dentist. He stated I needed to have all my teeth pulled and replace with dentures. I was only in my 50's; this was not an acceptable treatment plan, regardless of my financial situation. I obtained a second opinion. The second dentist told me that most of my teeth would be lost within five years. The most cost-effective treatment would be to pull all the teeth and be fitted for dentures. I was outraged. Instead, I went to Boston...

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A Personal Story: No Phone, No Gas, No Dentist – Leslie, Lebanon

Leslie has spent 2 years out of work due to health issues and has been living on $500 a month for the past year. Nutritional deficiencies over the last few years have weakened her teeth so that now many of them have nerve damage and are falling out. She has no insurance for herself and so has been unable to address any of these issues. She has no income to cover the phone minutes to call dentists or the gas to drive to visit them in person. A year and a half ago, Leslie’s daughter had an accident in school where she was...

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A Personal Story: NH School Nurse Sees Problems in Kid’s Teeth – Norwich

Sylvia is in her 60s, lives in Norwich, Vermont, and works as a school nurse in New Hampshire. "We see a lot of kids coming in with just completely rotted out teeth." She explains that it's sometimes difficult to persuade parents in low-income families to participate in free dental care programs. "It's really hard to convince that group that not only are they eligible, but that it isn't a hand-out . . . Sometimes they're afraid to get linked into the system, because a lot of these [dental care] groups say, well, we'll give it...

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A Personal Story: Pain Comes and Goes – Thomas, White River Junction

Thomas is 29 and lives in White River Junction, Vermont. The last time he went to a dentist was about five years ago--he hasn't been back because he can't afford it. Thomas feels lucky that his teeth are in pretty good shape overall, and he's taken good care of them over the years. However he does have one tooth that abscessed about eight months ago. "It got so infected that I couldn't sleep, I couldn't think, I couldn't work. I went to the hospital. They told me they really couldn't do anything about it. They told me to see...

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A Personal Story: No Dentist in 10 Years – Sam, White River Junction

Sam is 44 and lives in White River Junction, Vermont. It has been over ten years since he has seen a dentist. He just moved to the area in January, and he does not know where to start looking. He gets $700 a month from disability and does not know whether dental care is covered for him. He has teeth he knows need attention, because he can see that they're decaying. In the past when this has happened, they have been painful and needed to be pulled. He's also got one that is crooked and one that is chipped. Since Sam has lost nine...

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A Personal Story: Fixed Income – Ellen, Lebanon

Ellen is 81 and lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire. She has a dentist that she sees regularly but has no dental insurance. She takes good care of her teeth and gets them cleaned once a year, although her dentist would like to see her every six months. Ellen's income is fixed at just over $1,000 a month, which means she needs to watch her expenses. In the winter, Ellen finds it more difficult to get out, and the cost of heat makes her living expenses higher, so that's why she doesn't go more often. "I'm on oxygen all the time and...

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A Personal Story: Family Access – Robin, Lebanon

Robin is a 33 year old single mom who lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Robin and her children have New Hampshire state Medicaid insurance, which is limited in the dental care it covers for kids and does not meet Robin's family's needs. Robin's eldest daughter just had three cavities filled, only two of which were covered by her insurance. It's especially frustrating for Robin that her dentist claims her daughter is not taking care of her teeth, when, in reality, her daughter's decay is due to medication she is taking. Robin has...

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A Personal Story: Physical Health Keeping Her from Dentist – Margaret, Lebanon

Margaret is 96 and lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Margaret has had false teeth for the past six years, and she had a new upper plate made a few months ago for which she paid $1,000. The problem is that they don't fit properly and they hurt her after being in for an hour. She wants to go back to the dentist, but she can't get there, because she has a heart condition, hasn't been out of the house all winter, and has to be very careful not to catch cold. She normally winters in Florida, and her body is not used to the New Hampshire...

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A Personal Story: Routine Maintenance Too Expensive – Doris, Lebanon

Doris is in her 80s, lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and has had a lot of dental work done over the past year. She's been able to afford it by pulling the money from other areas. However, the routine maintenance is more difficult to afford: "I don't go to the cleanings often enough. They're expensive." Doris knows about a dental clinic she could go to but you need a car and need to be able to go at night. Her daughter has a car, but can't drive at night, so Doris has no way to get there.   Doris doesn't understand...

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A Personal Story: Stay Active or Keep Teeth? – Jeanette, Lebanon

Jeanette is 86 and lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire. She has no dental insurance, but she has supplements to her social security that make her able to afford to pay out-of-pocket. Jeanette has had a crown recently and gets cleanings every six months. She feels very fortunate that she still has most of her natural teeth and takes great pride in taking care of them.   Jeanette has osteoporosis, and one of the medications her doctor prescribed for her, Flomax, affected her teeth. Jeanette explains: "It softens your gums...

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A Personal Story: Cutting Back on Food to Pay for Teeth – Marion, Lebanon

Marion is 84 and lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire. "I've worn dentures since I was in my 20s." Marion's dentures were so worn down that her dentist recommended she get new ones. She didn't have the money to pay for them, so her dentist told her about a credit card loan program that was especially for dental and health care costs. "I paid $150 a month for a year. He did give me a senior discount of $600, which brought it down so that the actual cost that I had to pay was $1,800. But that's still a lot of money when you're on Social...

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A Personal Story: New Dentures Not in Budget – Pamela, Lebanon

Pamela is 70 and lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire. "I've had dentures for 45 years, and they are the porcelain ones, and I am reluctant of even considering the new materials." But Pamela's dentures don't fit as well as when she was younger so she is not able to chew as well as she used to. Pamela explains that over time the dentures get ground down, and that your gums shrink as you age, making a new set necessary. "I can't bite like a grinder or a pizza, everything has to be cut up in little pieces … new dentures sure would...

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A Personal Story: Dentures are Dangerous – Barbara, Lebanon

Barbara is 72 and lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Barbara has dentures that don't quite fit. "The bottom ones fit good, but the top ones, they float. I can't eat anything with them." The ill-fitting dentures are not merely an inconvenience for Barbara, they are actually dangerous. "I have, lately, in the last year, choked on anything I eat, like meat … The first time I did that I called for an ambulance…. It scared the heck out of me." The ambulance didn't come fast enough to help--fortunately Barbara was able to remove...

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A Personal Story: Missing Plate Affects Eating – Thomas, Lebanon

Thomas is 63 and lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire. He used to have a dentist he saw regularly, but since he lost his dental insurance, he hasn't been back. "The insurance doesn't cover it. I don't know why, but it doesn't." Thomas is missing a partial plate denture that he lost in a move and now can't find anywhere. Thomas doesn't know how to get another plate, or how he will afford it. His missing plate affects his eating. "When I'm eating something, I feel like I'm eating the whole thing … I'd like to get a new partial plate...

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A Personal Story: I Haven’t Been Back- Dan, Lebanon

Dan is 72 and lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire. About three years ago Dan had a bridge made that cost him $1,700. Like many seniors, Dan has a limited income, so this was quite expensive for him. “They hooked them to two of my other teeth and filled them and put pegs in them, and they just wouldn't stay in my mouth. And if they did stay, the minute I'd try to open my mouth they'd fall down. It wasn't worth even having them…. I haven't been back to [the dentist] because it wouldn't do me no good to go back to him anyways....

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A Personal Story: Pediatric X-ray Issues – Heather, Lyme

Heather is 40, with two young children, living in Lyme, New Hampshire. Her family has dental insurance, and can afford their dental care, but they drive all the way to Burlington, VT, a four hour round trip, for their son's dental work. “Our oldest son began dental care locally, where I go, and he wasn't able to bite down on the x-ray wings. He has a really strong gag reflex…. The fourth time he tried he was really determined to do it so he chomped really hard and split the roof of his mouth open. And he was really disheartened.”...

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A Personal Story: Can’t Find Affordable Local Dentist – Amy, Chelsea

Amy and her family moved to Vermont eight years ago, and had three children at the time. “We had private insurance, and it did not include dental. We did not qualify for state dental insurance. We were private-paying for all of our dental work.” Then Amy's husband lost his job and they could no longer afford $1,500 a month for private health insurance. After this happened they qualified for Dr. Dynasaur for their children. Amy started looking for dentists and found one who took her children on as patients. They saw him for...

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A Personal Story: Heart Valve Replacement & Dental Health – Bob, West Lebanon

Bob is 61 and lives in West Lebanon, New Hampshire. Five years ago, Bob discovered that he had some teeth that were loosening, one of which fell out. Recent x-rays and exams indicate that due to bone deterioration, Bob needs a total of ten teeth extracted, with a partial bridge replacement on the bottom. Bob has also had a heart valve replacement, which complicates his dental care. He needs to take anticoagulation drugs regularly, as well as amoxycillin before dental procedures to make sure there's no infection in the valve....

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A Personal Story: Cost Overshadows Everything – Anne and Evan, Lebanon

Anne is 60 and has an 18 year old adopted son, Evan, with Downs Syndrome. Anne explains that people with Downs Syndrome have short, spindly fragile teeth that break a lot. She's determined that her son be able to keep his teeth in the best condition possible: “His smile is his passport to the world.” Evan's local dentist retired and that dentist’s replacement left, so Anne now has to drive from Lebanon, New Hampshire, to Burlington for dental care for Evan. Because of Evan's Downs Syndrome, he needs to have all dental work...

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A Personal Story: Top Teeth are Bad – Steven, Lebanon

Steven is 49 and lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire. He just went to the local free dental clinic where he had three extractions and some fillings. “It's basically my top teeth. My bottom teeth are fine, it's just my top teeth that are bad.” Steven had to wait a month or two to get the work done, but the experience was good, and he's satisfied. They told him he's good for another year, and then, Steven says, “We'll see.”

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A Personal Story: Take from Peter to Pay Paul – Jim, Lebanon

Jim is 74 and lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Jim doesn't like to go to the dentist, but he does because sometimes he has to. He finds it quite expensive. He doesn't get cleanings, but does go for extractions. “I wait until I need one out and then I have it out. I had like seven filled when I was in grammar school. It took all these years and I'm slowly losing them one by one. Other than that I've got most of them.” Jim can tell when one of his teeth needs to come out because he gets a tooth ache that he can control with...

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A Personal Story: More Than 10 Years – Janet, Canaan

Janet is 57, lives in Caanan, New Hampshire and does not have a dentist that she sees regularly. It's been more than ten years since she last saw a dentist. She doesn't like dentists and she thinks it's expensive to see one. Janet suspects she probably has dental work she needs done, but is not in any pain and has no immediate plans to see a dentist.

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A Personal Story: It’s Been A Long Time – Linda, Plainfield

Linda is 60 and lives in Plainfield, New Hampshire. She has been recently hospitalized with asthma and is having difficulty managing her condition. Linda doesn't remember the last time she visited a dentist. “It's been a long time.” Her health problems, being in and out of the hospital, have prevented her from seeing a dentist. She doesn't know whether or not she needs any work done: “I have no idea.” She has Medicaid and Medicare, but doesn't know whether or not they cover cleanings.

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A Personal Story: Two Teeth Left – Alvin, Enfield

Alvin is 71 and lives in Enfield, New Hampshire. When he was 19 he had to have several teeth extracted. “I had bad teeth. They rotted right to the gum. Then I had to have them out.” Alvin doesn't have a dentist he sees currently. “I have two teeth left, that's all. One is loose. It won't come out, but it's loose enough you know it's loose. It's weird … I've only got two on the bottom--I need them to eat with.” He hasn't gone to see anyone because he thinks his teeth will last without a visit to the dentist. Alvin doesn't...

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A Personal Story: No Money to Pay – Roger, West Lebanon

Roger lives in West Lebanon, New Hampshire. He is 52 and needs work done on all of his top teeth. His bottom teeth are good but his top teeth are all broken. He needs about seven of them extracted. Roger was at the dentist a month ago, but they said they couldn't help him because he doesn't have any money to pay. “What do you have to do?” he wonders. Although he is currently not in any pain, he sometimes gets headaches and wonders if it's because of his broken teeth.

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A Personal Story: A Year and a Half of Pain – Paula, South Royalton

When Paula moved to South Royalton, Vermont, because she had no job she was on Medicaid. She had a cap on her left rear molar which had cracked, but Medicaid did not cover any dental for her, even what seemed to her to be an emergency. She had to wait until she got a job, and then she had to wait nine months before the insurance kicked in to go get her tooth looked at. The first appointment was just an assessment, and she was referred to a different dentist where she had to wait again to get an appointment. “We were probably...

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A Personal Story: Losing a Tooth Changes Your Life – Clara, Grafton

Clara is 63 and lives in Grafton, New Hampshire. “I've lost a tooth. It's a prominent tooth--it's an eye tooth, so it's rather in the front of my smile. It's kind of interesting the way it's changing my life…. This is actually a type of a disability, I believe. People judge you strangely when you're missing teeth. It makes a lot of difference in how you can interact with people. They treat you as lower class.” Clara is actually glad that the tooth is gone. It had been giving her a lot of trouble for a number of years....

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A Personal Story: Dentist Won’t Take Me Back – Naomi, White River Junction

Naomi is 23 and pregnant. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont, and has dental work she needs done. The last time she saw a dentist was about six months ago, when she got three cavities filled and two teeth pulled. “They told me they weren't going to see me again because I don't take care of my teeth…. I take care of my teeth, but my teeth are the way they are because … no one taught me proper hygiene.” Naomi is missing a front tooth and the rest of her teeth have shifted as a result. She needs more fillings and...

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A Personal Story: Insurance Doesn’t Help Much – John, Lebanon

John, 41, lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and has two cracked teeth that need crowns. He has dental insurance but it does not cover very much of the work. The estimated out of pocket cost for John is about $1,000 per crown. He has a regular dentist, but has to wait until he has the money to get the work done. “The dentists that I've seen, they have a set fee that they charge. There is no write-off the way there is for health insurance.” John explains that with doctors and hospitals, if insurance covers 80% of the charge,...

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A Personal Story: Kids Ok, What About Mom? – Lyza, White River Junction

Lyza, 27 years old with 4 kids, lives in White River Junction, Vermont, and she does not have a dentist that she sees regularly. The last time she was at the dentist was about eight months ago. At the time she had three teeth she needed to have pulled, and she used her annual allotment of money from Medicaid for that. Unfortunately, Lyza has significant work she still needs done: “I've got two front teeth that are broken and kind of chipping away.” Since it's a new year, Lyza has money from Medicaid she can use for dental...

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A Personal Story: Living with Delayed Care – Brianna, White River Junction

Brianna is 22 and is pregnant with her third child. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont, and goes to a local free dental clinic, where she gets cleanings and has had two teeth pulled. She finds it difficult to get in for an appointment, though. Brianna has one tooth that needs a filling; she will have to wait six months before the work can be done. She's never tried to find a dentist who might be able to see her sooner, because she doesn't know of any others who will take Medicaid. Brianna wishes she didn't have to wait...

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A Personal Story: Bottom Jaw Plate – Wendy, Norwich

Wendy is 60 and lives in Norwich, Vermont. She has a plate in her bottom jaw because she couldn't see a dentist when she was younger. “My brother broke my jaw, and it didn't reset right because I couldn't afford to go to the dentist and have him look at it. So I broke all these teeth, because I grind my teeth.” Wendy did eventually get to a dentist. “I paid cash, $2,400, and then (had) another tooth out … I should have saved it.” This dentist fitted Wendy for dentures and fortunately they fit perfectly; she has had...

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A Personal Story: No Help for Young Mom – Elane, Lebanon

Elane lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and has worked for 36 years as a nurse at an Upper Valley hospital. She often sees patients with dental health needs who cannot find or afford care. One case has stayed with her for a long time: that of a 34-year old pregnant woman with recurring infections in her mouth. This woman went to the emergency room multiple times but could not get lasting treatment. Finally, someone got grant money so the woman could get dental work done, and all of her teeth were pulled. Elane remembers, “…and...

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A Personal Story: Broken Teeth & Unemployed – Zack, Claremont

Zach is 23 and lives in Claremont, New Hampshire. He is currently unemployed and without dental insurance. “I have some of the older style fillings that are in my mouth that have fallen out. I have broken teeth… I have tried to get help for them. I've been to the ER a couple of times because of the pain... I've tried calling different dental places and they either want cash up front or they need insurance. A lot of them don't do sliding scale or anything like that, it's like a flat rate and you need to have that money when...

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A Personal Story: My Mouth My Body – Tracy, Lyme

Tracy is 51 years old and lives in Lyme, New Hampshire. Here is her story: "A number of years ago I fell while rollerblading.  I landed with my full weight on my chin, crushing 5 teeth.  Thankfully I did not break my jaw or get a concussion.  But my mouth was literally in shards.  I was taken to the emergency room at DHMC where they did stitch up the gash in my chin.  But they were unsure of the rest of my mouth.  There is an oral surgeon at Hitchcock but he was in surgery and could not see me.  So I was sent to my...

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A Personal Story: Overseas Dental Care – Roy, Lyme

Roy lives in Lyme, NH, and has four kids between the ages of 14 and 23. He is divorced from his wife, and while he does not have dental insurance, his ex-wife and kids do, through her job. She recently went to see a new dentist, and since the family owes several hundred dollars for that visit, she is reluctant to go back. Roy hopes to be able to pay off that bill soon, but until he can, his ex-wife is hesitant to schedule another visit for herself or for their oldest child, who has been recently complaining about a toothache. Three...

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Vermont Town Meeting on Dental Care – March 10, 2012

Join United States Senator Bernie Sanders for a Town Meeting on Dental Care. Dental care is unaffordable for many Vermonters. This town meeting will be an opportunity for Vermonters to speak out about the issue and hear from Senator Sanders and Vermont officials about efforts to improve dental care access nationally and in Vermont. 10:30 am refreshments  | 11:00 am Meeting begins Montpelier...

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Preschoolers in Surgery for a Mouthful of Cavities

--excerpted from The New York Times, Health, March 6, 2012. In the surgical wing of the Center for Pediatric Dentistry at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Devon Koester, 2 ½ years old, was resting last month in his mother’s arms as an anesthesiologist held a bubble-gum-scented mask over his face to put him under. The doctors then took X-rays, which showed that 11 of his 20 baby teeth had cavities. Then his pediatric dentist extracted two incisors, performed a root canal on a molar, and gave the rest fillings and...

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A Personal Story: Oragelling Through It – Karen, Lyme

Karen lives in Lyme, New Hampshire. Her husband, Tom, was disabled as a result of an accident in 1990. At the time, she had some work done on one of her teeth, but was unable to finish it: “We had some money so I saw a dentist many years ago - and I agreed on charges to have a tooth implanted - but the dentist and surgeon both over charged me at my visit." Karen couldn’t afford to finish the procedure, "…so I just have a [post] where one tooth was." Karen's current situation makes it difficult for her to get the care...

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March 7th Presentation – Pediatric Oral Health Disparities

View Video Presentation: Pediatric Oral Health Disparities

COHI member Dr. Steven Chapman (Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School, Medical Director, General Pediatrics Clinic Medical Director, Boyle Community Pediatrics Program, Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center) will be presenting "Pediatric Oral Health Disparities" at Pediatric...

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A Personal Story: Dipping Into Retirement for Teeth – Danielle, West Hartford

Danielle and her husband are both self-employed and living in West Hartford, Vermont. The only dental insurance available to them pays for cleanings but doesn't cover the bigger work that she needs to get done. Whenever she goes to the dentist, the dentist will usually find something big and give Danielle a proposal of how and when the work should be done. It usually involves more than one tooth and costs two to three thousand dollars. "It's a little overwhelming," says Danielle. She usually puts the work on a payment plan with...

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A Personal Story: No X-rays, No Cleaning – Alyson, Corinth

Alyson stopped teaching in 2005 to be home with her children, and when she did that her family lost the dental insurance she had had with her job. Because she lives in Vermont, her children are covered by Dr. Dynasaur, but Alyson and her husband are not. Consequently, Alyson has not been to the dentist for six years. When Alyson tried to schedule an appointment with her dentist, after she no longer had insurance, the office  informed her that it was time for her to have x-rays done. "I said, I would like to forgo that because...

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A Personal Story: Extraction the Only Option – Phil, Vershire

In 1997, Phil was self employed and making good money. He had a tooth that needed a root canal and a crown, and he paid $1,200 to get the work done. After five or six years, the tooth went bad and Phil needed to get it fixed. However this time he was unemployed and "basically homeless", and he could not find anyone willing to do the work. Fortunately, Phil lives in Vermont and had VHAP and went to the local free clinic where he got a voucher for an extraction. "It was really messed up because it was really hurting for awhile...

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A Personal Story: I’d Like to Save Them – Patricia, Charlestown

Patricia, a 53-year old resident of Charlestown, New Hampshire, is disabled and lives on a fixed income. She had an accident in early 2011 that has necessitated major dental work which she can't afford. In addition to breaking a tooth, she needs to address issues on other molars. Medicaid has offered to pull the broken tooth - they won't cover caps or other work. But Patricia only has two molars left in her mouth. She said "I'd like to save them, not lose them. If I have to keep pulling them out, eventually I'll end up with...

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A Personal Story: Good Teeth? – John, Thetford

John is 35, lives in Vermont, and has worked at different times in logging, construction, and farming all his life. He hasn't been to the dentist in 10 years. He doesn't have any concerns about his teeth - no pain, no discomfort. Going to the dentist just has not been a priority for him. Now, he finally has dental insurance. But none of the local dentists accepts it. At this point he figures he'll keep on the way he has until something goes wrong. Maybe he just has "good teeth". He's hoping! Illustration by

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A Personal Story: Why Is It So Hard? – Gloria, Woodstock

Last year, Gloria took the big step of signing up for dental insurance for herself and her family. With a husband and two children, she had a lot of mouths to look after, and she figured that dental insurance would be the best and most prudent way to make sure the family's oral health was covered. The problem is, in the year since she signed up for dental insurance she hasn't  been able to find a single local Vermont dentist who accepts her insurance program. "We got it because we needed it," she told me, "but now we can’t...

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A Personal Story: Really Hard to Schedule – Laura, Vershire

Laura and her husband do not have dental insurance for themselves, but their three kids are covered by Dr. Dynasaur because they live in Vermont. Laura is committed to regular dental care for her family, and she pays for her check ups out of a health savings account that her husband contributes to regularly. Laura's daughter has braces, which costs the family $290 a month, and with those payments due, she has less money to spend on other preventative care. Laura tries to keep a regular check up and cleaning schedule for her...

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A Personal Story: On Back Burner – Katie, South Royalton

Katie moved to Vermont a little over two years ago from Chicago. She is a teacher in her twenties and does not have dental insurance. The last time she went to the dentist was Spring of 2009. She hasn't found a dentist in the Upper Valley because she generally has really healthy teeth--she doesn't even have any cavities. "I feel really guilty about it. I feel like I should go to a dentist and get everything checked out. But it's just one of those things that's on a back burner...There's too much other stuff to do."

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A Personal Story: All the Rest is Covered – Monica, Woodstock

I am a 57-year-old woman living in Vermont who had no dental work done for several years because I made sure my family was taken care of before myself. And when my husband passed away, I absolutely could not afford any dental care. It is very detrimental to my health. I have had severe infections and always been in the situation where I finally went to the dentist because there was nothing else that could be done. I was given antibiotics, which usually didn’t even help. I waited so long it was beyond what could be handled. I...

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A Personal Story: Painful but Unaffordable – Linda, Woodstock

Linda lives in Woodstock, Vermont. This is her story: It has been very frustrating for me to not have enough money to afford dental insurance and not have enough money to afford to get my teeth fixed properly. I am very lucky that one of my very best friends is a hygienist and she cleans my teeth regularly and she has taken x-rays. I have gotten quotes around at least $10,000 to fix my teeth; they have progressively gotten worse because I can’t afford to go to the dentist. I have suffered with toothaches until I finally...

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A Personal Story: Oral Health System is Broken – Marisa, Fairlee

Marisa lives in Fairlee, Vermont. This is her story: I am a "big sister" to a girl whose family lives in the Upper Valley. I’ve worked with her for six years now, and have become close with her family. About three years ago, her mom had all of her top teeth, and some of her bottom extracted because they’d become infected and rotten. Unfortunately, she’s been without any top teeth or partial bottom this entire time because she cannot afford the cost of dentures. She has no dental insurance. I know that it affects her...

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A Personal Story: A Dentist You Can Trust – Joyce, Woodstock

Joyce and her husband live in Woodstock, Vermont, and have never had dental insurance. About six or seven years ago they both had quite a bit of work done on their old fillings. Three at a time, the old fillings were drilled out and replaced by a ceramic pearl. Unfortunately the dentist drilled up too far into the root which resulted in buckle decay in their back molars. This dentist later closed her practice and went out of business, before she could repair the problem. Now Joyce and her husband were both faced with tens of...

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A Personal Story: Won’t Take Teeth for Granted – Sarah, Topsham

Sarah feels really lucky about her family's dental care. Living in Vermont, her children have been covered by Dr. Dynasaur since they were young, "I feel like we got in with a really good dentist... and then I started hearing about this shortage." Sarah used to see the same dentist as her children, but she had a lapse where she didn't go for three years. When she tried to go back and re-establish regular care, they weren't accepting new patients, so she had to find another dentist. The lapse in care occurred because Sarah herself...

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A Personal Story: Glad She Has Insurance – Michelle, Strafford

Michelle lives in Strafford, Vermont, and works full time as a surgical nurse. She pays $120 a month for the dental insurance that covers her, her husband, and son. Her son has braces and the insurance pays $2,000 a year towards those. Nonetheless, Michelle must still pay an additional $150 a month for her son's braces. "It definitely makes it so that we can't afford other things, like vacations and things like that... But, if something happened, we're glad that we have dental insurance." Four years ago Michelle's son knocked...

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A Personal Story: No Clemency for Uninsured – Naomi, Thetford

Naomi lives in Thetford, Vermont. This is her story: For almost 25 years our family had health insurance that included dental benefits. I had to have a tooth pulled a decade or so ago, after a botched root canal procedure; there is a visible gap, but fixing it was and is not an option: insurance didn't cover such things and it was - and is - just too expensive. Our children had good dental care while growing up, then, in college, our elder son put off visits to a dentist; he knew that, at the time, we were unemployed and...

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A Personal Story: Can’t Afford It – Fred, Strafford

Fred, who lives in Strafford, Vermont, had this to say: My wife and I are on a very limited fixed income. We are both 81. Our parents and then ourselves have always taken good care of our teeth. We have always had 6 month checkups and necessary work done. However, for the past four years we have only had annual cleaning and checkups as the cost has gotten to be more than we can afford. At my last cleaning it was noticed that I had one filling that was cracked and the remedy would have been $195. I chose not to have it done....

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A Personal Story: Dental Issues in the ER – Tina, Corinth

Tina lives in Corinth, Vermont, and is an emergency room nurse at a critical care hospital in the Upper Valley. "I would say in an eight hour shift I tend to see two to three people with dental pain issues...sometimes it's just pain from a cracked tooth but more often than not somebody has an infection in their mouth. The majority of the people I see don't have dental insurance and a lot of them use the local free clinic which can take up to six months to get an appointment. It's just really hard, so they end up in the emergency...

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A Personal Story: One at a Time – Dottie, Strafford

Dottie and her husband Stan live in Strafford, Vermont, and have no dental insurance. Dottie is currently scheduled to have three cleanings a year, because she is on the edge of periodontal disease. She can afford to pay for her cleanings, but in the last ten years she has also had five crowns and two root canals which were more difficult to find the money for. One year she had two crowns and a root canal, Stan had a crown, and the couple's total dental bill that year was $8,500. Fortunately their dentist offered them a loan...

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A Personal Story: Broken Dentures – Dick, Bethel

Richard is 88 years old, lives in Bethel, Vermont, and does not have a regular dentist. His income is limited; he receives Social Security, Medicare, and food stamps which bring in around $800 a month.Thirty years ago he had a full set of dentures made for $400, and they've never caused him any problems. However, last week he was eating a hot dog when the bottom denture broke in half. He brought them with him to the senior center to see if someone could help him get them fixed. Karen, who works at the senior center, gave him...

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A Personal Story: Delay Causes Cavities – Tessa, White River Junction

Tessa, who lives in White River Junction, Vermont, hadn't been to the dentist in five years because her previous dentist had closed their practice and she didn't know where else to go. Tessa's mom helped her find a new dentist about six months ago. Although Tessa had never had a single cavity up until her last visit, "I had eight cavities and two root canals, because we went five or six years without going to the dentist. I had a lot of work to be done. And I had just been pregnant." Fortunately the work was all paid for by Medicaid....

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A Personal Story: Dentist Who’ll Take Kids? – Jennifer, White River Junction

Jennifer is 20 years old with a three year old son. They live in White River Junction, Vermont. Jennifer had a bad experience at the dentist when she was seven or eight years old and hasn't been back since. She wants to go back, because her teeth are crooked and she would like to get them fixed. Her wisdom teeth are coming in and pushing the rest of her teeth forward. "Now they're overlapping and they never used to." Jennifer also suspects she has a cavity. She has pain when biting into hot or cold foods. "I'm scared of going...

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A Personal Story: Teeth Not Bothering Her Today – Jasmine, Wilder

The last time Jasmine, who lives in Wilder, Vermont, went to the dentist was seven or eight years ago. She had two or three cavities which she had filled. The reason she hasn't been back is because her teeth are not currently bothering her. Jasmine has no dental insurance and says it would be difficult to pay for a visit to the dentist because her income is so low.

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A Personal Story: No Time, No Money – Jamie, Hartford

Jamie is 19 and hasn't been to the dentist in about four years.  The last time she went to the dentist, she had a lot of cavities that she needed to get filled. Jamie has pain in her mouth and suspects she has more cavities, but does not currently have a dentist. She would go back to her previous dentist, but she doesn't think they accept Vermont Medicaid. Jamie is extremely busy with her two year old son, and doesn't have time to look for a new dentist.

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A Personal Story: Safe If I’m Pregnant? – Elizabeth, White River Junction

The last time Elizabeth went to the dentist was probably two or three years ago. She doesn't go now because she can't make appointments that often and doesn't have the money. Her last appointment was for an extraction, which she said didn't hurt too much because they give you medication for it. "I don't mind the dentist too much." Though she is currently living in White River Junction, Vermont, Elizabeth has moved around a lot and hasn't yet found a dentist in the Upper Valley. She has a sharp pain in her mouth now, particularly...

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A Personal Story: Dentists Scare Me – Dakota, Hartford

Dakota has not seen the dentist in the past three years, since before her son was born. She does not like dentists. One dentist she saw when she was younger was mean and unpleasant. She went and got the fillings she needed and then never went back. Five years ago another dentist claimed to have put caps on her teeth, but didn't and then charged her mom $3,000 for the work. "I don't go to the dentist—they scare me. But now I've got all of my wisdom teeth coming in and I'm scared they're going to mess up all the rest of my teeth...

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A Personal Story: Stranded from Care – Alicia, South Royalton

Alicia is a young mother and has Vermont Medicaid for health insurance. She has lost two different dentists because they went out of business without referring her to someone else: "I was just kind of left stranded." She currently has no dentist, and it's been four or five years since she has seen somebody. She has a broken tooth that needs either a root canal or extraction, "I can't swish cold or hot water around in my mouth because it hurts so bad." Alicia has tried to find another dentist, but always seems to get put on a...

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A Personal Story: Long, Hard Wait – Jody, Tunbridge

Jody is 25 and living in Tunbridge, Vermont. She has not been to the dentist since high school. The last time she was at the dentist was for a routine cleaning, but she does have a receding gumline that she knows she might need to deal with in the future."I would really like to go, and I know I need to go, and I think my teeth are really important, but I haven't made it a priority to go, partly because of money." Jody works in early childhood education and is paid hourly with no benefits. Most of her money goes toward paying...

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A Personal Story: In Debt for Dental – Emme, Strafford

Emme is 58 with two grown children. She lives in Strafford, Vermont. She has dental work that she needs done, but can't afford it. She has repeatedly gone into debt to try to pay her dental bills. Here is her story:

Sometimes we had Medicaid, sometimes not, but I have only once used a Medicaid dentist, as I trust my own so much, and he does not take Medicaid. Most of the time we just put it on the credit card, as we don't have enough money to pay cash. We have lots of credit...

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A Personal Story: A Tooth Would Help! – Cathy, Enfield

Cathy lives in Enfield, New Hampshire. This is her story: I had a dentist ask me once, "you've had good times and bad, haven't you?" True, I have a couple of beautiful caps, some ugly ole' black fillings, and many emergency extractions. I'm 63 and even with insurance it is NEVER enough to get a nice smile. :) I have also worked with homeless people for 40 years (including running Shelter, Inc homeless shelter in Cambridge, Massachusetts for 7 years). When families call to ask what can they do [to help homeless people],...

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A Personal Story: Took Better Care of My Truck – Normand, Lebanon

Normand lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire. This is his story: I am 74 and just had 9 teeth extracted because of neglect. I took better care of my truck than myself. The last time and only time I went to a dentist was at age 7 when 11 teeth were extracted. It was a bad memory, because of the pain and probably the reason I stayed away from the dentist.

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A Personal Story: Beyond Saving – Lori, Strafford

Lori is a single mother of six, three of whom still live at home with her in Strafford, Vermont. Lori's children have had dental insurance through Dr. Dynasaur from the time they were young but Lori has not. Although she always had a dentist, she could not afford routine maintenance, "and so I ended up losing seven of my adult chewing teeth—the big ones in the back—because they would just get cavities and they would just go so quickly that...there was no saving them. Even two of them, I went in and said, 'I don't care what...

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A Personal Story: Benefits Chipping Away – Sasha, Hartford

Sasha, who lives in Hartford, Vermont, has a cafeteria plan for benefits at her work, and her dental insurance option is twice the cost it was just eight years ago. She used to pay for dental insurance, but since the price has doubled (it's now $50-$60 a month) she finally decided to drop it. She deposited some of the money into a health savings account to help pay for any work she might need done. "As benefits have been chipped away and chipped away, it's been dental insurance that has taken the biggest hit." Eight or nine...

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A Personal Story: Post-Recession Coverage – Kate, Thetford

Kate and her family moved to Thetford, Vermont, from Boston a year ago. When she was living in Boston, Kate had full dental insurance through her job in education. Her dentist at the time was recommending a lot of procedures for her, including scaling and a steel implant for a 12 year old molar that never came in. Kate moved before getting those procedures, and it was 18 months before she managed to see a dentist in the Upper Valley. Kate was surprised, and somewhat relieved, that her new dentist did not recommend any of these...

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A Personal Story: Paying for Prevention – Sue, Vershire

Sue lives in Vershire, Vermont. She does not have dental insurance through her job but she has always made sure she gets regular cleanings and does as much preventative care as she can. "Any time there's been a crown or a filling--luckily we haven't had too many of those things--we would pay for it." When her children were younger and Sue and her husband weren't sure whether or not they would need braces, they enrolled in a dental insurance plan and paid the premium. One of their children did need braces, which was partially...

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A Personal Story: On COBRA for the Dental – Jen, Thetford

Jen and her family had dental insurance until a few months ago when Jen lost her job. Fortunately, since they live in Vermont, Jen was able to get the family on VHAP and Dr. Dynasaur, but her daughter was seeing a pediatric dentist in New Hampshire. "My six year old had significant dental work that was needed and they had referred her to a specialist in Manchester, New Hampshire." Because the regular family dentist refused to do the work, Jen was faced with the prospect of a seven hundred dollar to several thousand dollar dental...

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A Personal Story: Abscess Causing Headaches – Julie, Strafford

Julie is a single mom with three kids living in Strafford, Vermont. Her children all have dental coverage through Dr. Dynasaur, but Julie is not covered because she has VHAP, which does not include dental. Julie was put on a waiting list at a local clinic. She had been without dental care for seven years, desperately needed a cleaning, and she felt very fortunate when her primary care physician made a phone call to get her moved up the waiting list. About a year ago Julie started experiencing headaches which took several months...

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A Personal Story: Don’t Bother with the ER – Caitlin, Norwich

Caitlin has had a lot of work done on her teeth since childhood. She goes to the dentist regularly to make sure small problems don't become larger. She has health insurance through Vermont Medicaid, but it does not cover the dental work she needs done, or the medical attention she needed as the result of an abscess that developed when a root canal failed. Caitlin explains: "I had been to the dentist for a cleaning/exam (but opted not to pay for the standard bitewing x-rays) less than a month prior. The tooth in question had...

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A Personal Story: One Tooth a Year – Sarah, Sharon

Sarah, 61, lives in Sharon, Vermont, and has dental insurance. "But even with dental insurance I pay about a thousand dollars a year because I've had so many fillings that need to be replaced, and root canals done...Even with dental insurance it's pretty expensive." Even so, Sarah tries not to put off dental work—she tries to do one tooth a year. Sarah feels fortunate to have insurance, because the cost would be twice as much without insurance. "I just feel really lucky that I can afford to pay that half share of (the work.)...

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A Personal Story: Teeth are a Good Investment – Susan, Chelsea

Susan and her husband Phil and their family live in Chelsea, Vermont, and have had dental insurance through her teaching job for the past eighteen years. Although they've never had high incomes, Susan and Phil and their children always made sure to get regular dental care: "I've always felt like taking care of your teeth was a priority, even when we felt like we had no money." The dental insurance they had paid for cleanings and most of the cost of the two crowns Susan had to have. One of the crowns was five years ago and the...

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A Personal Story: Risking Cancer – Fred, Canaan

Fred is 70 years old, is retired, and currently lives in a camping trailer in the woods in Canaan, New Hampshire, and exists largely on credit card debt. He has Medicare, but it doesn't cover any dental care and he has no dental insurance. He has a dentist he goes to every six month; he's been going to for 30 years. A year and a half ago his dentist was concerned he might have gum cancer, and gave Fred a referral for an oral surgeon to biopsy his gums. But the surgeon wanted approximately $400 per biopsy, which would have been...

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A Personal Story: Paying the Rest of My Life – Janet and Sondra, Enfield

Janet is 53, lives in Enfield, New Hampshire, and has never had dental insurance. She has a top plate denture years ago which her mother bought for her. She only has her front bottom teeth, the back ones are gone, and she knows that those front ones are slowly rotting away. She just can't afford to get to a dentist to fix them. "It's only a matter of time before someone goes very wrong." Janet’s daughter, Sondra, 37, is disabled and has no dental insurance. Recently, she had to have teeth pulled and a partial bridge, which...

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A Personal Story: Living Without Dentures – Peter, White River Junction

Peter lives in White River Junction, Vermont. He has had no teeth since 1983. He had dentures, but he had to stop using them because bone chips started surfacing from his gums and it became uncomfortable to wear them. For the past 20 years, he hasn't been able to afford new dentures. So he lives without them.

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A Personal Story: Chipping Away at the Issues – Jesse, Enfield

Jesse lives in Enfield, New Hampshire. This is his story: Fonda's son Jesse was on her dental insurance until he was 18 years old. When he was around 21, he had a bicycle accident and he broke his jaw. His teeth were never the same after that. He owned his own business at the time, and he was too old to be on Fonda's dental plan and couldn't afford his own, so he didn't have any dental insurance. A few years later, he also ended up with impacted wisdom teeth. The work he needed done amounted to thousands of dollars; money...

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A Personal Story: Lasting Pain – Catherine, Lebanon

Catherine lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire, on $900 a month. Some years ago, she was going to a dentist in the Upper Valley and had some work done on her bottom teeth, but because she couldn't pay up-front for her treatment, her dentist stopped treating her. She hasn't been back to a dentist since. Her bottom teeth still bother her: "I'm just wondering how long they are going to last!"

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A Personal Story: Crowns vs Food? – Martha, Sharon

Martha moved with her family to Sharon, Vermont, from overseas three years ago. She went to the dentist for a full work up, and the dentist told her she would need several procedures done over the next five years. Martha and her family do not have dental insurance so she is paying out of pocket for all the work. Martha got one crown done for $1,200 and then changed dentists because she found one who would do the work for less money. However the new dentist has since raised his rates, so his crowns are over a thousand dollars...

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A Personal Story: Not Enough for Dental – Debra, Lebanon

Debra lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire. This is her story: I had no real dental health care when I was young. I had a great deal of dental work done while I was married; but really nothing else after my husband past away 13 years ago. I get New Hampshire Medicaid (ATPD), but it is not enough to pay for dental care. I don't want to lose my teeth!!!

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A Personal Story: My Aching Teeth – Reginald, Lebanon

Reginald lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire. This is his story: I'd never gone to a dentist until my teeth were aching all the time. I had to have all my teeth pulled. I'm only able to get dentures because my daughter owns a denture clinic and my local dental clinic has been kind enough to work directly with her [out of state].

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A Personal Story: What Value 4 Teeth? – Nurse Nancy’s Clients, West Topsham

Nancy is a nurse who has been working with pregnant women, babies, and children in the Upper Valley for the past eighteen years. She, herself, lives in West Topsham, Vermont. Many of her clients do not have access to the dental care they need. She remembers one client of hers, a twenty two year old mother of three, who had advanced decay and had to have all of her teeth pulled. This was paid for by Medicaid, but the dentures she needed were not, "which is a rather sad commentary on looking at a twenty two year old woman who we're...

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A Personal Story: Savings Wiped Out – Kate, South Strafford

Kate, 39, is married with two children and living in South Strafford, Vermont. She takes her children to get their teeth cleaned twice a year, she goes once a year, and her husband goes more often: "He's spent a lot of time at the dentist in the past few years." Although the kids have dental insurance through Dr. Dynasaur, Kate and her husband pay for their care out of pocket. Kate's husband had to have a lot of dental work done over the past three years: "It's a hit. All his root canal stuff was probably a couple thousand dollars....

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A Personal Story: Can It Wait? – Beth, Strafford

Beth is 49, lives in Strafford, Vermont, and has a job in health care. She feels fortunate that she and her family have dental insurance and have always gone to the dentist regularly. She and her husband have started needing to get their teeth crowned, as their old fillings deteriorate: "As a matter of fact, I felt a little twinge of something yesterday." Because their insurance covers half the cost, Beth and her husband take turns getting their teeth crowned in order to afford their dental work. Then they use a payment plan...

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A Personal Story: If I Had Insurance – Lisa, Chelsea

Lisa, 49, lives in Chelsea, Vermont. She does not have dental or health insurance. She knows that it is recommended for her to see the dentist every six months, but she prefers to take charge of her own health. She is self-sufficient in her health care, even to the point of making her own toothpaste. "My personal philosophy is that I'm not missing too much by not having health care and by not going (to the dentist) too much, but, I am in a position where I am a really healthy person, and my teeth are perfectly fine. There's...

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A Personal Story: It Shouldn’t Be So Hard – Amy, Strafford

When Amy moved to Vermont fourteen years ago she had only been to the dentist twice since college. With only one cavity, she considered her teeth relatively healthy. Her story details how difficult it was for her to find satisfactory dental care, and how her oral health suffered as a result. At the first dentist she tried, Amy had a cavity filled which needed to be repaired the very next year, and her dentist wasn't comfortable when she brought her children to her appointments with her. The next dentist Amy found really worked...

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A Personal Story: Weighing Priorities – Rob, Thetford

Rob is a self-employed builder and painter in Thetford, Vermont. A few years ago he needed a crown done but couldn't afford it. He was able to work out a deal with his dentist where they exchanged services: the dentist put on the crown, and Rob did work for the dentist. Rob is trying hard not to take on debt and is careful about deciding to get dental work done: "There's no way I can afford to come in and spend a couple thousand dollars on my teeth right away. So I have to weigh things and decide how pertinent (the dental...

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A Personal Story: Mom Likes Mobile Care – Marcie, Strafford

Marcie is married with three small children, living in Strafford, Vermont. When her husband was teaching, their family had dental insurance, but when he left his job five years ago they were uninsured. During the time they were uninsured, Marcie tried to make sure the family got regular cleanings, but even that was difficult. She had to schedule the appointments so far in advance, by the time the date got there, something always seemed to come up and they'd have to cancel. She decided to switch dentists and found it difficult...

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A Personal Story: Time-Bomb Tooth – Bob, Strafford

Bob, 52, is self employed, married with one child, living in Vermont, and has never had dental insurance. He doesn't think it's worth the investment: "It never seems to really cover the bills...I just pay as I go." Bob sees his dentist regularly, twice a year. At his last visit he had a crown put on one of his teeth, and the dentist noticed another tooth with a crack. The dentist suggested Bob get another crown before the tooth shatters in some unexpected place where he won't be able to get immediate dental help. "I can't afford...

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A Personal Story: Can’t Afford Preventive Care – Margaret, Corinth

Margaret lives in Corinth, Vermont. Margaret, her husband Jonathan, and their three children have no dental insurance and they have high deductible health insurance. Annually they spend $12,000 for health insurance, and each person has a $3,500 deductible. In a good year they spend around $15,000 on dental and health care, and in the year with a birth, a broken arm and a broken leg, it was $25,000. Margaret pays for her kids' dental care entirely out of pocket, "I go to the dentist with my kids and sometimes it's $600." She estimates...

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A Personal Story: Dad’s Oral Care A Worry – Lauren, Hanover

Lauren's father was 67 and a retired attorney living in North Carolina when he had a stroke. Lauren moved him up to the Upper Valley to be in a nursing home and to be near family in Hanover, New Hampshire, and took on responsibility for his health and dental care. Although he had always had dental and health insurance, for decades he had refused to see doctors and dentists except in an emergency. When he moved to the Upper Valley, Lauren was able to get him to see a doctor and get caught up on taking care of some of his health...

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A Personal Story: Pulling Teeth – Heather, Enfield

Heather lives in Enfield, Vermont. She is deeply ashamed of the number of teeth she has lost. She has six that have been pulled, and at least four that need caps. Heather was divorced three years ago, and is still covered under her ex husband's dental insurance policy until December—even so, the amount the insurance pays doesn't cover the expense of the work Heather needs done. "I've been in my dentist's office in tears because I can't afford the dental care. I always go through a little break down when I realize I have...

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A Personal Story: I Try to Do It Myself – Eve, Sharon

Eve had partial dental coverage through her job two years ago. She went to the dentist because of pain in her mouth, and although the problem has only been partially resolved, she has since lost her job and can't afford to go back. She lives in Sharon, Vermont. Here is her story: "The last time I went to the dentist was two years ago, and he took care of a cavity, but he said that if it still hurts after a while it's possible that it's really just a root canal situation. But I never went back because I had such trouble paying...

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A Personal Story: Calculated Cost Risk – Ian, Hanover

Ian is 57, living in Hanover, New Hampshire, and just had his first root canal, half of which was covered by insurance. He figures he is at an age where he will start needing more dental work: "I'm in the age range where there's the likelihood of some caps once in a while." His strategy for dealing with the expense of dental care is to take a calculated risk. Ian has the option to purchase dental insurance renewed every year through his employer. The dental insurance is about $50 a month, or $600 a year. Ian figures he would...

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A Personal Story: Avoiding It – Amber, Fairlee

After five years of no dental care, Amber finally got a job with both health and dental insurance and immediately scheduled an appointment with a dentist. She found out that she had three cavities and needed a root canal. Even with insurance, Amber had to take out a credit card for dental care to pay the $1,500 for the procedure. Because the interest rate was exorbitant, she worked hard to pay the bill off in five months. Amber took a job overseas (ironically, working in the healthcare field to establish services for underserved...

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A Personal Story: Payment Plan Saved Her – Laurie, Washington

When Laurie was married to her first husband, she and her children had private dental insurance which covered their dental needs. When she divorced, she was no longer on that plan, and as a low income mom, she qualified for Vermont's VHAP. The family dentist she had gone to for years did not accept VHAP, and Laurie needed a crown. Laurie was earning $11 an hour, and she didn't have the money to pay for the entire procedure outright. She looked for a dentist who would take the VHAP insurance, but all the places who were accepting...

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A Personal Story: When I Win the Lottery – Melisa, Corinth

Melisa is 43 and living in Corinth, Vermont. She is a single mom who qualifies for dental insurance through VHAP. Six years ago, Melisa found out she needed a root canal and crown for one of her teeth. She paid her dentist over $2,000 for this work, but a year later the tooth broke and needed to be extracted. This time she found an inexpensive dentist further away from her home who pulled the tooth for $50. He suggested to her that she get a bridge within a year and Melisa thought, "Yeah, sure, when I win the lottery." Five years...

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A Personal Story: Limits of a Limited Budget – Jessica, Chelsea

Jessica is the mother of three young children living in Chelsea, Vermont. As a single mom, her family is on a limited budget, although she and her children have some dental insurance through VHAP and Dr. Dynasaur. Jessica had a hard time finding a dentist who will take Dr. Dynasaur, but she finally found one in Norwich. She has been satisfied with the situation until the past year or so when gas prices have gotten so high that the drive is becoming a financial hardship. Jessica tries hard to limit the amount of driving her...

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A Personal Story: Trapped, No Options – Nancy and Kate, Thetford

Nancy and her family live in Thetford, Vermont. Nancy, her husband, and their three children all have dental insurance through her husband's job. Nancy's middle daughter, Kate, has been going to the dentist since she was two, having regular cleanings every six months. When Kate was three, their family dentist told them that she had cavities that would need to get filled in a year or so, before they started getting painful. Because Kate is so young, she needed to see a pediatric dentist. Nancy started looking and was surprised...

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A Personal Story: Pediatric Care – Kate and Eva, Lyme

When Kate's daughter, Eva, was six, the family dentist saw that she had six cavities in between her molars that needed filling. Because of her age, the fact that her teeth were close together, and the number of cavities, the family dentist did not want to do the work. The pediatric dentist he recommended was in Manchester, New Hampshire. Kate looked for one closer, but could not find one she was comfortable with. She and her daughter made the 2 ½ hour round trip drive at least four times during the year Eva was in Kindergarten....

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A Personal Story: Good Insurance Only Covers Half – Sean, Thetford

Sean has had dental insurance intermittently throughout his life and feels as though he has always had it when he's needed it. Even though he's currently insured through his wife's policy, he's only gone to the dentist once in the last year and a half. "I don't want to go in and find I need something done." Affordability is the issue. They pay a lot of money for their son's dental care, because he is eighteen and no longer covered by Sean's wife's policy. Even though Sean's wife has a good insurance policy, it still doesn't help...

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A Personal Story: Cracks Need Crowns – Katie, Sharon

Katie has three teeth where the old fillings have caused cracks which need to be crowned. "They told me that four or five years ago, and I kept putting it off because we didn't have the money or dental insurance." Katie had a baby two years ago and is still paying off the medical bills from that. She should be done in about six months, and then she plans to look into loan options in Vermont in order to get one of her crowns done. She'll have to get the work done one tooth at a time, which means it could be a long time before...

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A Personal Story: Quality She Can Afford? – Patricia, Hanover

Patricia lives in Hanover, New Hampshire. Patricia and her husband had dental insurance when they owned their own company, but since the company closed they have been uninsured. Patricia's goal is simple: clean, healthy teeth. She had a good dentist, but she stopped using him because she could no longer afford him without insurance. She changed dentists hoping to save money but ended up not getting adequate quality of care. Patricia was really unhappy with the work of the new dentist and will not go back. Consequently, she has...

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A Personal Story: Cracked Teeth, No Caps – Brad, Bradford

Brad used to have dental insurance through the school system where his wife was employed, but they divorced several years ago, and now he lives in Bradford, Vermont, with no dental insurance. Brad had cavities filled as a kid, and he has had to have some of them replaced, as well as have sealants done. “I've had many cracked teeth, but no caps...yet.” Brad gets his teeth cleaned and checked twice a year and always goes for the least expensive solutions his dentist offers. “I have not actually had to postpone caps, but,...

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A Personal Story: Bad Teeth Change You – Lauren, Woodsville

Lauren lives in Woodsville, New Hampshire. This is her story: I have friends and family who have gone without dental care because they either were without insurance or simply could not afford to get the level of oral care they needed. The negative impact the look of rotting or missing teeth has on a person is tremendous. Psychologically it is so damaging as to actually cause depression, alienation from loved ones, and may actually cause one to limit any outside contact to avoid embarrassment. The physical problems associated...

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A Personal Story: Money Is the Issue – Jeff, Bradford

Jeff is a homeless veteran currently living with a friend in Bradford, Vermont. This is his story: My dental history in a nutshell: I can’t afford it. I go to a free clinic if I can. If I need a tooth pulled I am going to do it. I just do not like the pain. I guess it is a money issue. Although, I have been pretty lucky. I only had one tooth pulled. But all my other teeth have fillings, most of them. I know down the road things will change. One tooth I have is cracked right now, and I am concerned about that,...

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A Personal Story: Disabled Vet Needs Crown – Paul, Bradford

Paul lives in Bradford, Vermont. This is his story: I am a disabled vet and go to the VA in White River Junction, Vermont. It just feels like the medical people think that dental is secondary. Like healthy teeth is not important, that basically you can live without it.  So they do not take it seriously. If you had cancer they would treat you for cancer. But when it comes to teeth, you are 100% they do not care. They don’t seem to realize that if you work on the teeth, keep someone’s mouth healthy, their body is more healthy. Right...

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A Personal Story: Teeth Beyond Saving – Teresa, Fairlee

Teresa is 31 years old, living in Fairlee, Vermont, and her teeth are in terrible shape. Until she was 18, Teresa was able to get dental care through her mom’s insurance. But after that she was on her own, and that meant the end of her capacity to afford any sort of oral health care. About 12 years ago Teresa was in a car accident that resulted in a chipped tooth. Left untreated, the tooth decayed; years later, it is now fractured right down to the gumline and one of a number of teeth that are so badly diseased that she thinks...

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A Personal Story: There Is No Extra $ – Helen, Royalton

Helen lives in Royalton, Vermont. This is her story: I woke up this morning with what felt like I had a golf ball in my mouth.  I know it is abscessed and infected and I know I cannot afford to get half the work done so why bother doing anything.  I know I will need a root canal and a crown because this has happened before.  The most I have saved is $600 that is not even half the cost of the root canal.  I own my own business.  Times are tight, business is slow.  There is no extra money. Illustration by

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A Personal Story: Medicaid Doesn’t Cover It – Robby, Fairlee

25-year-old Robby carries a lot of responsibility on her young shoulders; as a mom to four children, she has a lot of small mouths to worry about. Her children are eligible to receive dental care through Vermont’s Dr. Dynasaur program, and Robby knows that teeth are important. But she says that it’s tough to find a dentist who will take Dr. Dynasaur, and when you do, they usually schedule far out in advance. “With so many kids,” she says, “schedules change, someone’s always sick or something - it’s very hard to...

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A Personal Story: Premiums Not Affordable – J. Lisa, Woodstock

J. Lisa lives in Woodstock, Vermont. This is her story: I asked my employer to carry dental insurance to allow employees the options of having dental insurance. The employer agreed. When I started the policy it was about $400 per year for coverage. The monthly premiums were withdrawn from our paychecks. I stopped carrying the policy last year the premium was nearly $700 per year.  It was no longer feasible. My dentist told me I needed four crowns. Each year I would budget one crown; that was all the policy would allow...

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A Personal Story: No Preventive Care Possible – Amanda, White River Junction

Amanda is 24 years old, living in White River Junction, Vermont, with a young son who is 19 months old. As a single mom with no job, Amanda just does not have the luxury to focus on her own oral health. Although she has no immediate dental issues, she knows that without appropriate preventative care she is just living on borrowed time, and she worries about what she’s going to do when a problem develops. “I’m just worried about my son right now,” she says. “I literally could not pay anything for my own teeth.” All...

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A Personal Story: Six Months of Pain – Nicole, White River Junction

Nicole is a young, single mother whose wisdom teeth starting hurting her terribly two years ago. All four of her wisdom teeth were impacted and needed to be surgically removed. Because she had no insurance to cover oral surgery, Nicole spent a very painful six months trying to locate and get referred to a provider who would do the procedure and give her a payment plan that was within her means. Two years later, she is still making monthly payments to pay for the removal of those wisdom teeth – just one more bill and one more...

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A Personal Story: Leaning on Family – Ilene, Thetford Center

Ilene lives in Thetford Center, Vermont. She has had a full set of dentures for 40-plus years. She’s had to have the bottom ones re-lined 3-4 times, but the top ones had been fine. Until recently. She lost four of the teeth out of the top denture. The top plate also then cracked; the cracks have been temporarily fixed, but now she needs to replace the top plate. She lives on social security income of just $1,020 a month, and so she can’t afford to pay for a new denture plate up-front. Ilene learned that she could set up...

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A Personal Story: No Way to Pay – Bernard, East Thetford

Bernard lives in East Thetford, Vermont. He has a problem. He needs to have four bottom teeth pulled and then is supposed to get a full bottom plate denture. He is 79 and has had good care from the free clinic; he will have the teeth pulled there for free. But he can’t go there to get the denture - they don't do dentures. He has an appointment at a dental facility to make and fit the denture, but he doesn't know how he's going to pay for it. He receives $1,122 in social security income a month and “that don’t go very far.” ...

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A Personal Story: Even with Insurance – Michael, White River Junction

Michael lives in White River Junction, Vermont, and has dental insurance through work. He needed a crown, and when he paid for it he met the $1,200 limit of his insurance. “I was in pain, and I needed another crown…” so he went ahead and got a second crown. Now he has a bill for $1,200 that he can’t pay. He’s cancelled his upcoming teeth cleaning appointment, though he sees the importance of preventative care in avoiding the need for future dental work, because he just can’t afford it on top of the dental bill he...

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A Personal Story: Pain and Discomfort – Lillian, West Lebanon

Lillian lives in West Lebanon, New Hampshire. Now 63, Lillian got gum disease and had to have her teeth removed when she was in her early 50s. The dentures she got to replace her teeth fit well, originally. But the original dentures have aged and worn down with time, Lillian’s gums have changed, and the dentures have never been re-adjusted. [It is recommended that most dentures be replaced every 5-7 years.] Lillian can’t use adhesive anymore because her gums are very sensitive and the adhesive bothers them. But she...

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A Personal Story: Unemployed and Worried – Geoff, Norwich

Geoff is currently unemployed and living in Norwich, Vermont. He hasn’t been to the dentist in 2 years – not since he was employed and had dental insurance. “I’d like to get my usual check-up, like when I had insurance to cover it. But I can’t afford it. If the dentists would only do it for free!”

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A Personal Story: No Teeth; No Dentures – Paul, Wilder

Paul lives in Wilder, Vermont. In 1997, Paul broke his neck. Unfortunately, no one knew it was broken for a while so Paul kept working. Now he is permanently disabled. His teeth needed to be removed. Medicare covered a set of dentures back then, but they were made wrong and they’ve never fit right, so he’s never been able to wear them. He’s been without teeth ever since.

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A Personal Story: No Proud Smile – Joan, Plainfield

Joan lives in Plainfield, New Hampshire. This is her story: It has been over 10 years since I have been able to go to the dentist due to no insurance and the cost of dental care. I have broken teeth in the back as well as a bunch of cavities. I am able to get my health care needs taken care of by a local medical clinic, but I don't live in an area with access to a dental clinic. Since I have no dependent children, I am unable to get any help from the state of New Hampshire. Oh, what I would give to be able to get my teeth...

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A Personal Story: Stuck in the Middle – Alice, Quechee

Alice lives in Quechee, Vermont. This is her story: I have an upper plate and it broke all of my bottom teeth. They are so bad and have decay and I have no insurance. I have to live with it. My husband and I make too much money to get any help, but not enough to fix them.

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A Personal Story: Daily Dental Pain – Travis, White River Junction

Travis is a resident of White River Junction, Vermont. Travis lived with daily dental pain for years because he couldn’t afford care. He had a dental abscess that caused his entire face to swell up. He scraped up money to visit a dentist and get a filling, but when the same tooth cracked in half the very next day he couldn’t afford to go back and instead lived with a jagged, broken tooth. Finally, a few years ago, he managed to find the money for his remaining teeth to be extracted; he just needed to “yank ‘em all out”,...

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A Personal Story: Vet not Set – Michael, Wilder

Michael is homeless; these days, he lives in a tent in Wilder, Vermont. He’s a veteran; he receives medical care through the VA, and also has Medicaid. “People think that if you’ve got Medicare and Medicaid, you must...

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A Personal Story: Dental Health a Luxury? – Milena, Woodstock

Milena lives in Woodstock, Vermont. This is her story: I spent over 5 years working for a small non-profit organization that offered its employees a range of benefits, including access to medical and dental insurance. The organization’s policy was to pay 50% of health insurance coverage for all employees, but if you wanted to opt-in to the dental insurance you were on your own; as a small organization, they just couldn’t afford the cost. The smart, prudent thing to do would have been to get myself dental insurance –...

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A Personal Story: Just Can’t Do It – Robert, Hartford

Robert lives in Hartford, Vermont. He got his first partial denture years ago, when he was living in Michigan. But it never really fit right. “I can eat better without it than I can with it,” he says. Now, in addition to needing his first denture to be fixed, he also needs a second partial denture. He went to the local branch of a big commercial practice to get help because they advertised that their first exam is free. But he couldn’t afford anything that came after the first exam, and now he owes them money--and still...

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A Personal Story: Preventive Care – Roger, West Lebanon

Roger lives in West Lebanon, New Hampshire. His story is pretty simple, really; he’d just like to get his teeth checked. It’s been a long time since he’s been to a dentist. He’s not in any pain, he hasn’t got any loose teeth or any obvious, glaring dental problems. He’d just like to stay healthy, and he knows that checkups are pretty important. Problem is, he just can’t afford it. Roger lives on his social security income; he’s got Medicare, but that’s no help when it comes to dental expenses. He rides his bike...

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A Personal Story: Affordable Dentures? – Barbara, West Lebanon

Barbara lives in West Lebanon, New Hampshire. She got her dentures about a year ago, from the local branch of a big commercial practice that regularly offers new denture coupons and discounts in their advertisements. She took advantage of a special offer that the practice was running and got her dentures inexpensively. But a year later, Barbara’s dentures don’t fit right. “They feel like wax,” she says. “I don’t like wearing them.” She’d like to have them re-lined so that they’re comfortable, but without a discount...

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A Personal Story: Access to Care – Jane, White River Junction

Jane lives in White River Junction, Vermont. This is her story: I am an uninsured American, and my family makes just enough money so that we do not qualify for Medicaid. Although I’ve made it through most of my life without visiting a dentist for regular appointments, about a year ago I developed a throbbing pain in the lower left side of my mouth. I tried going to an Emergency Department at my local hospital, but all they were able to do was offer me aspirin and give me a referral to a dentist whom I could not afford to...

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A Personal Story: Access to and Quality of Care – Helen, Woodstock

Helen lives in Woodstock, Vermont. This is her story: When I moved to Vermont 13 years ago, I was starting a new business as an independent consultant, and I wasn’t able to afford health insurance, much less dental insurance. I chose a dentist from the phone book and started to get yearly checkups and do whatever work needed to be done, as I had the money to do it. When I started to feel a dull, aching pain in my upper jaw around an area where I’d had a root canal prior to arriving in VT, I mentioned it to my new dentist....

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A Personal Story: Teeth in A Jar – Shannon, Claremont

Shannon lives in Claremont, New Hampshire. She got her dentures in the early 1980's; back then, they cost her around $500. In the years since then, Shannon has gradually developed a bone spur in her mouth that...

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A Personal Story: Nancy Dumont, Alice Peck Day Hospital

“It’s easy to raise money to take care of the children, but it's very difficult to find money to take care of adults.“ - Nancy DuMont Nancy DuMont is the Manager of the Department of Community...

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A Personal Story: Medicaid Doesn’t Cover It – Mary, Norwich

The following letter was published in The Valley News in March 2011, under the title "A Misconceived Economic System": To the Editor: I am a Medicaid recipient and have never had better health care....

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The Red Logan Clinic Perspective: An Interview with Hildegard Ojibway

“It’s difficult to live a normal life and to go about your business when your own tooth is cutting a hole in your cheek or you can’t walk down the street and breathe through your mouth on a [cold] day.” -...

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Welcome to the Upper Valley Oral Health web site!

Hello and welcome to the Upper Valley Oral Health website! We hope that you’ll find the information here to be interesting, informative and helpful to understanding the importance of oral health in your everyday life. Of course, we couldn’t have done this without help from local organizations including the Upper Valley United Way, the Jack & Dorothy Byrne Foundation, the Boyle Fund at the Vermont Community Foundation and the Ottauquechee Health Foundation. A lot of work has gone into making sure that the content and...

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