Archive for August, 2011

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

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

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 family does in order to save money—sometimes she’ll drive the kids halfway to meet their father who will take them the rest of the way for their appointments. She says she’s seen a mobile dental clinic bus in Chelsea, but has not been able to find any information about the dates and times it’s open. Jessica herself has not had her teeth cleaned in two years because she can’t afford it, but she’s committed to keeping her kids’ regular cleaning appointments: “When you’ve got small children, you’ve got to be on top of that.”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

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

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

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 to find her options were very limited, with only one local pediatric dentist and just a few within driving distance.

Once she had an appointment, even with dental insurance, Nancy had to pay $110 before the pediatric dentist would even look at Kate. The initial exam revealed that Kate had six cavities which would need to be filled in three separate visits. Because of her age, Kate would need nitrous oxide for the procedure, which was not covered by insurance. Completing those six fillings would cost a total of $565. Although it would delay the procedures, Nancy would need to schedule each visit three months apart because, “we don’t have that kind of cash flow.”

At Kate’s first scheduled visit to get two of her cavities filled, Nancy was not comfortable with how the pediatric dentist interacted with her four year old. Ultimately, Kate pitched a fit, and the dentist couldn’t get the procedure done. He charged $67 for ten minutes. He was now recommending Kate have her cavities filled by him under general anesthesia. Nancy is not at all comfortable with this dentist, does not want her daughter under general anesthesia, but doesn’t feel like she has a choice: “I feel trapped. I don’t feel like I have any other option. I just don’t know where to turn.”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

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

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

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. The dentist would only schedule young children in the morning, so every trip meant that Eva had to miss a full day of school. By the end of the school year, her teacher was concerned about the number of school days she was missing. With the extra time and the expense of paying for gas, Kate said, “It definitely was not convenient,” but on the up side, “(Eva) is still positive about the whole thing.”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

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

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

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 enough: “She’s got as good as it gets, and it only covers half.” They currently have around $4,000 in unpaid dental bills. Still, Sean feels pretty lucky: “I’m 59 years old and have all my teeth—by Vermont standards, that’s not bad.”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

A Personal Story: Cracks Need Crowns – Katie, Sharon

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

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 all three teeth are crowned. Katie knows she should schedule the dental work, but, “it’s hard to put out that money, because there’s clothes for the kids . . . I don’t know. I mean, I will do it, but it’s hard to spend that much money on my teeth. But if I wait, then that would mean a root canal and that would be a lot more invasive.”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

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

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

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 not seen a dentist in one and a half years. She continues to floss and brush diligently; but currently, she is not sure how to find quality care she can afford.

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

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

Monday, August 29th, 2011

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, at $1,000 a pop, I would.” Brad tries to take good care of his teeth to save himself money, and now that he’s in his 60s, he is looking for more information about what happens to teeth as one ages. Brad feels lucky to have a dentist who is willing to work within his financial means: “I’m thankful that my dentist keeps me going.”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

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

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

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 with tooth loss and decay are also impressive. If food is not chewed properly, normal digestion and absorption of vitamins and minerals cannot take place. Facial changes in bone structure occurs. This leads to problems – weakness and shifting of healthy teeth. You begin to look different.

I have seen the confidence, happiness, and health of people I know become severely altered as a result of the inaccessibility of proper dental treatment and care.

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

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

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, because I know if I can’t afford to have the crown I will just have it pulled. I have been down this road before. The one tooth I did have pulled, oh forget it, it was pretty bad. I tried pulling it myself because it ached so bad, and I ended up breaking the tooth so all there was left was the base of the tooth, even with my gum line, so when they pulled the root out they had to go in with forceps. I was so happy once they got it out.

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

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

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 now I have a cracked tooth. The first thing [the VA] say[s] is we will not give you the money for a crown. They will give me the money to have it pulled. The cost to pull the tooth is $200. The cost for a crown is ridiculous, over $1,000. When you do not have that much money, you can’t do that. They just force a lot of people to take their tooth out. They do not want to spend the $1,000 to save the tooth. I do not want to have my tooth pulled. So I went to a dentist. He told me he could fix it and to get a crown [through his office] it is almost $3,000. I said “Whoa!” He said, “But I will take it out for $500.” For $500 I can do that myself.