Archive for November, 2011

Upper Valley Program Teaches Children to “Be in Charge of Their Own Dental Health”

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Excerpts from Valley News article “Upper Valley Program Teaches Children to ‘Be in Charge of Their Own Dental Health’” published April 11, 2011.

Dental Disease has been called a silent epidemic that affects up to 23 percent of the nation’s children and nearly half the adult population who fall below the federal poverty line…

As with many other diseases, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and both dental and medical professionals are working to improve access to dental care for children and adults. In this region, Upper Valley Smiles, a program in Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital’s Department of Community Health brings dental care and screening into the Lebanon, Canaan, Enfield and White River Junction school districts for uninsured or under-insured children in grades K through 3…

The way Upper Valley Smiles works is this: a team of a dentist, hygienist and an assistant go into a school once a year to screen children, who have been given permission to attend by their parents, for such dental issues as cavities, injuries that have resulted in trauma to the mouth and teeth and poorly positioned teeth or abscesses.

“We determine which children are at risk and identify those teeth that need restorative attention or sealants, and everybody gets a fluoride varnish,” said Dr. Bob Keene, a Hanover resident and the dentist currently affiliated with Upper Valley Smiles.

The idea, Keene said, is to “teach people to be in charge of their own dental health.” Dentistry is “the art of behavior modification.” Children need constant reminders to brush at least twice daily and to floss. At the screenings, he and the hygienist try to “teach, encourage and help kids learn the skills they need to maintain a life of comfort and health.” Children are also given a handout for maintaining good dental practices at home…

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

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

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 zero percent interest, but “it still feels like you’re going into debt for your teeth.” At times she has cashed in her retirement money to pay for dental work.

Over the past ten years, Danielle guesses she has spent over ten thousand dollars on dental work. In fact, there was one tooth alone that probably cost that much: She had a root canal, another procedure, ended up having the tooth pulled, two bridges made, and finally ended up with an implant with a crown. At one point, her sister remarked to her: “You can get dentures a lot cheaper.”

Right now Danielle’s husband has a cracked tooth that he has delayed work on for the past year. He’s mindful of it when he eats, but it will probably cost four thousand dollars for an implant if the tooth breaks off. Danielle’s husband also needs to get hearing aids, and they have decided that his hearing is more important than the tooth at the moment. But it’s a difficult decision: “How do you choose between hearing aids and a cracked tooth?”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

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

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

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 that’s more expensive and I’m pretty sure my teeth don’t have any cavities and I just want a cleaning.” The policy of the office was that if Alyson wasn’t going to have the x-rays done, then she couldn’t just come in for a cleaning.

Alyson’s sister had had some work done at the local free clinic. Alyson applied to get her teeth checked there, but she was never called back. “I called back again and they said, well you’re on a list. Do you have an emergency? I said, no I just really need my teeth cleaned.” Alyson felt bad, like the clinic was really only for people with dental care crises, not for preventative care. “I would love an opportunity to get my teeth cleaned. I have really good teeth. I would just love to be able to keep them clean and healthy and good.”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

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

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

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 and I was babying it and babying it, until it finally finished cracking apart and I went in there. It was really awful, I really had a horrible toothache for like two weeks. Getting them to see me was just almost impossible.” But Phil finally convinced them to move up his appointment, and he had the tooth extracted. “That was one of the best things that ever really happened.”

But it’s frustrating for Phil, because he used to have health and dental insurance coverage through his job, and dentists were also more affordable. Now he feels like his only option is the clinic where he can only be seen for an extraction. “If there’s no real problem with your teeth, they’re not going to do much of anything. You basically have to wait until they’re extractable, which is really awful, and then just have all your teeth pulled out…That’s how our system is working now…Just like it was ages ago…from the 13-1400s until now. If you can’t afford whatever it costs to have someone look at your teeth and get the dental work done, they wait until they’re extractable and then, boom, out they go.”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

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

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

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 dentures, which are also expensive and are not covered. They’ll pull them all out for you, but they won’t replace them!”