Archive for September 13th, 2011

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

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

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!!!

A Personal Story: My Aching Teeth – Reginald, Lebanon

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

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].

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

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

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 now going to ask to go out and get a job, and she had no teeth.” Fortunately, Nancy was able to find a private donor so the woman could get dentures made.

Another woman Nancy works with had an abscessed tooth. She went to a dentist who extracted the tooth and in the process did a large amount of nerve damage. In trying to help this woman get follow-up care, Nancy found that that care was non-existent. “It has now been eight months. She’s still in horrible pain. She has altered movement in her jaw.” Trying to find care for this woman has been like, “calling in circles.” The woman has Vermont Medicaid but one clinic wouldn’t see her because they only accepted Medicaid from Chittenden county. Another clinic in New Hampshire wouldn’t see her because she had Vermont Medicaid. The one doctor that did see her referred her to a nerve specialist in Boston. When she did finally see him it was too late for him to do anything about the nerve damage. Nancy describes Medicaid and dental services for adults as “pathetic…basically, they will pull your teeth out.”

Another of Nancy’s clients, a young woman who just had her second baby, went to the dentist during her pregnancy. She found out that she had cavities and needed work on nearly all of her teeth. She was told if she didn’t get the work done right away she could wind up losing her teeth. She’d used up her year’s cap (on her insurance) and so she had to decide whether to have teeth pulled out, which would be covered by Medicaid, or to wait until January, hoping that at that time she could have more work done, and that her teeth would last that long.

“It’s really really frustrating and I always end up feeling like we don’t value people’s teeth, which are such a huge part of who they are. The impact of dental infection and gum disease on health is huge – I don’t even think we have a clue about the impact.” According to Nancy it not only affects cardiac health but also prenatal health. “But nobody acknowledges or is willing to take that on.”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

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

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

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. But I feel like if we’d been paying dental insurance for ten years we would have paid that.” She and her husband paid for his dental work from their savings: “It wipes out the savings, and then we don’t fix the barn.”

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

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

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 with a monthly payment to pay off the work.

Still, Beth and her husband tend to put off dental work as long as they possibly can. Whenever the dentist tells her there is more work to be done, Beth says, “I ask, ‘Do I have to do it now?’ because there are always other pressing needs.” Beth knows it can be dangerous to delay care: “An abcess can kill you if it goes to your brain…some things happen really fast.” But, she admits, even with dental insurance, most people can’t afford to do all their necessary dental work at once.

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

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

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 hardly any cavities in my family.”

Because Lisa pays out of pocket for all of her dental and medical care, regular cleanings go by the wayside. She feels that if her teeth are not hurting her and she doesn’t have any cavities, it’s OK to let the cleanings slide: “Why go in and pay $90 just to have your teeth cleaned? Why do that?” Lisa cannot afford to pay for cleanings, and the last time she went to the dentist for a cleaning was four years ago, right before she left her job that had both health and dental insurance. “If I had insurance, I’d go once a year.”