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 care issues, but he refused to see a dentist.

Lauren was visiting her father at his apartment at the nursing home one day: “I noticed these odd things sort of scattered around the carpeting. And they were teeth that had fallen out.” At this point, Lauren insisted they go to the dentist and took him to one. At the consult, the dentist said that all the top teeth needed to be pulled and he needed a partial denture on the bottom. Over a period of six months, all of Lauren’s father’s top teeth were pulled and he was scheduled for surgery to replace something in the bone before he was fitted for dentures.

At this point, Lauren feels that the dentist essentially abandoned her father’s care. The surgery kept needing to be rescheduled, her father was in great discomfort, and the whole process was dragging on and on. It was a danger for her father to be without teeth for so long, especially after having had a stroke with some swallowing reflex issues. Lauren eventually found a prosthodontist in a different town to finish her father’s dental work. Dental insurance was the one insurance Lauren’s father did not carry after he retired, so he paid over $20,000 out of pocket for a denture and a permanent bridge.

Since then Lauren’s father has moved to a nursing home with a higher level of care, but Lauren is concerned he’s still not getting the dental care he needs. Lauren is in the process of applying for Medicaid for her father, because after four years of paying for nursing home care he can no longer afford it. “It’s amazing how it can really eat up a retirement fund.”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

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