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"Each of us must come to care about everyone else's children. We must recognize that the well being of our own children is intimately linked to the well being of all other people's children. After all, when one of our children needs life-saving surgery, someone else's child will perform it. When one of our children is harmed by violence, someone else's child will commit it. The good life for our own children can be secured only if it is also secured for all other people's children. But to work for the well being of all children is not just a practical matter-- it is also right!" - Lilian G. Katz, Phd.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Teeth and Poverty

"You can't separate the mouth from the rest of the body," Lee says
But, Medicaid does. Dental care is hard on families, even middle class families with decent dental insurance. Teeth are not covered in the same way other body parts are. The only other body part treated this way is the brain, and if you read my blog, you know my feelings on that one.

In Arizona, Medicaid only covers dental for an extraction due to severe pain or trauma.

I just got back from the dentist. Last week, after breaking a wisdom tooth almost immediately before we left for California and Jesse's wedding, I applied for financing and was approved for $2000. Last Monday, the wisdom tooth came out, although begrudgingly and causing other issues in the process. I have a strange tolerance for Novocaine and local anesthetics, and it takes longer to work and twice as much and even then I still end up feeling pain.

That, plus X-rays, today's cleaning and exam came up to over $600. I have 8 cavities. The first four will cost $776 and the next $760. Oh, wait... that is over $2000 (plus the $90 I paid when I first came in).

My income is a little over $800 per month, plus whatever I can bring in from side projects. My debt, not counting student loans, is (Warning, full disclosure coming...) $14,752.96 as of this morning. (Ouch- I hadn't faced the total). I pay about $500 per month in payments, and a lot of that is to interest. I honestly don't need a lecture- so please don't. I can look back and see where I could have lived much more austerely, but chose debt. I maintain it well, but it is getting precarious. That amount does not include the teeth, which scares me. The fact that with prices rising, my ability to maintain my household is getting harder scares me more.

The interesting part is the reaction of the staff at my dentist to my worries. I get lectured (nicely, but still a lecture) about taking care of my teeth and that I should have a Sonicare toothbrush since my teeth are so bad. I got a really surprised look when I told the front office person when we were figuring out how much of the loan was left that the Dr. would have to choose which cavity not to fill. I told her the $75 per month for the loan killed all cushioning I had in my monthly budget.

My teeth are literally making me sick. I try to take care of them, but it is often cost prohibitive. When I do have to have work done on them, I have to wait until it is at a dire level. When I was working, I went to a hack dentist that didn't listen to me and did a horrible job on my mouth, because he was cheap on my insurance. I go to a much better dentist now, but have to scrimp and save to manage it.

I was going to rant about the general state of dentistry for the poor, and the article I linked to at the top is a great start.
From the article:
And advocates note that poor oral health is the root of a host of life-threatening and expensive medical problems that contribute to an overloaded health-care system.
Oral infections lead to health problems as serious as heart attacks and strokes. Having missing teeth interferes with chewing and contributes to a poor diet or malnutrition. And it affects a person's speech and appearance, which makes it harder to find a good job.
Why is it felt that dentistry is a luxury? Maybe people feel that health is a luxury- I honestly don't know.

All I do know is that I am sitting here, and my mouth hurts, and I am depressed about the future.